Review: Secret Six Vol. 2: The Gauntlet trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Gail Simone’s Secret Six, in all its iterations, has been the story of mercenaries for hire, loyal — almost always to a fault — only to each other. Whether helping grieving relatives get justice for a murdered child or protecting a slave trader’s dark fortune, the morality of a Six job hardly matters — until it does.

Should a job get too personal, a Six-er or their family threatened, or even one member’s own interests too far piqued, Six jobs can (and usually do) go wrong. But no matter how many times the Six betray or otherwise try to murder one another, they always come back together in the end, these personalities — often nontraditional in gender or sexuality — knowing where they fit in most is with one another.

By these definitions, Simone’s second Secret Six, which comes to its conclusion in the DC You-era Secret Six Vol. 2: The Gauntlet, is no less valid than the first. Certainly insofar as Simone’s first Secret Six gained members like Black Alice and King Shark, to the point that it was hardly a “Six” by the time it finished anyway, new members like Porcelain and Strix are no less worthy of membership in the Six team than the original-originals.

Review: Secret Six Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Secret Six Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places begins Gail Simone’s second Secret Six series (in the 2014 late-New 52/DC You-era), following her post-Crisis/pre-Flashpoint Secret Six series from 2005-ish to 2011. Simone’s earlier Secret Six is without question one of DC Comics' best series of the 21st century, a book that deserves far more acclaim than it’s ever received, worthy of a top spot on every “best series you’ve never read” list, and so the bar was high for the relaunch.

What we get in Friends is in the end simply confusing. The spirit of Simone’s Six is there, but not perhaps the full-fledged drama and lunacy; if the latter chapters of Simone’s first Six were perpetually turned up to 11, Friends hums along at a 7 or an 8. Like a song that only sounds familiar, the reader starts to sing along only to find the words are actually different; a big 180 in terms of what the book seems to be about versus what it is eventually actually about only muddles things more.

Review: Raven: Daughter of Darkness Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

I’m pleased that Marv Wolfman’s Raven: Daughter of Darkness Vol. 2, the last of his string of Rebirth-era Raven miniseries, ends on a high note. The initial Raven miniseries was something of a mess, and this successful conclusion seems to point the way forward, though seemingly too little, too late — pulling Raven away from high school theatrics, away especially from Wolfman trying too hard to write “teen-speak,” and toward instead a supporting cast made up entirely of other superheroes. That works much better, reflecting I think where the writer is most comfortable.

It’s a small pity that at least a couple of plot points from across Wolfman’s Raven miniseries never quite get resolved. For at least one of these, it seems Wolfman has opportunity but runs out of real estate or a subsequent miniseries with which to conclude. That’s better though than the plot point from the previous book hurriedly shoehorned into the end of this. In all, however, none of this disturbs that much given that this story stands well enough on its own; short of a detail here and there (especially as relates to one powerful scene), interested readers might be advised to skip all of Wolfman’s lead-up and just start here.

Review: Raven: Daughter of Darkness Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Marv Wolfman’s Raven: Daughter of Darkness Vol. 1 is an improvement at least on his previous Rebirth era Raven miniseries. For me, I still see Wolfman getting too much in his own way; it’s not necessarily that I don’t like the new, young Raven so much as Wolfman’s “lingo” for Raven and others is not nearly as hip as he thinks it is, making this whole book seem kind of stodgy.

There’s a fine mystery, some reversals, even a villain somewhat trite but unexpected nonetheless — all of that, again, is better than what came before. But Raven is also hampered by the book’s low effort to fill us in on the main character’s recent history or even current origins; when notable events take place or people appear, it’s hard to know necessarily what gravity to give them when we don’t know how common or unusual they are. It makes the reading experience uneven; DC achieves their goal of having a Raven title on the stands at a time it’s worthwhile, but assuredly nothing ground-breaking is accomplished.

Review: Sweet Tooth: The Return trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

“This is a story …” Indeed it is. Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth: The Return is a fantastic coda to his Sweet Tooth saga, apart from but additive to the original books.

To delve much more into the who and how would spoil it, but suffice it to say that I have seen writers return to their masterworks with mixed results, sequels that don’t live up or that make one question whether the good old days were all that good at all. The Return is not that — it is wholly unnecessary for enjoying Sweet Tooth proper, but also emotional and sweet and centered around certain ideas implicit but perhaps not explicit in the original. That’s useful; insomuch as one does not have to have The Return, one would have clearer eyes afterward were they to delve back into the original Sweet Tooth again.

Review: Indiana Jones Omnibus Vol. 2 trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

Sunday, August 29, 2021

[Guest reviewer Zach King blogs about movies as The Cinema King. Don’t miss his recent Archaeology August review series of the Indiana Jones movies, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark, at the site.]

In my last review, I started to tackle what I take to be the forgotten comic book legacy of Indiana Jones, stating with the first of five out-of-print omnibus collections from Dark Horse Comics. Two trades covered the Dark Horse run of Indy titles, with the other three reprinting the Marvel Comics run from the 1980s.

Since yours truly has never been able to find a copy of those latter three omnibus collections (subtitled The Further Adventures) for any cheaper than four times cover price, I’m left with only the two volumes of Dark Horse material. The first volume did not exactly win me over, collecting stories that seemed dated and overlong. All the same, some Indy is better than no Indy at all, and so I was relieved to find that the second omnibus — Indiana Jones Omnibus, Volume 2 — acquits itself much better than its predecessor. These comics strike a much better balance between adventure and historical context, more expertly utilizing comic book pacing by showing rather than telling.

Review: Gotham City Monsters trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Frankenstein (the agent of SHADE) has been a favorite of mine since Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers and the New 52 Jeff Lemire series, a concept that by definition stretched DC’s usual superheroics toward something more zany. That Frankenstein has continued to appear in titles from Justice League Dark to Batman & Robin has been wonderful to see.

To that end, I’m very pleased for Steve Orlando’s Gotham City Monsters to exist, a book that not only stars Frankenstein but also Andrew Bennett, the titular I, Vampire of DC lore and Joshua Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino’s also-great New 52 series. Every time these characters are brought out of limbo increases the chances of them being brought out of limbo again, and it seems clear to me within the book that Orlando has the same kind of affection for these characters that I do.

Review: Raven trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, August 22, 2021

I have a lack of new DC titles to read right now, to the point where I just recently re-read Dark Nights: Metal in sequential order rather than by collections (and enjoyed it quite a bit more than I did before). The Raven character plays a small but unexpectedly meaningful role around the edges of Metal, and noting that two recent Raven miniseries by Marv Wolfman were published just before and around Metal, I was curious to see if there was any acknowledgment of or tie-in to Metal’s events. (There is not, at least as far as the miniseries, just called Raven, is concerned.)

I will say that I’ve found Raven’s portrayals since the New 52 — and earlier, even — somewhat lackluster; to me, the same cynical lack of imagination that sees the powerful, often self-assured mystic Raven of the 1980s recreated as an angsty teenager is the same that turns deaf pacifist Jericho into a bloodthirsty (and hearing) villain. Wolfman and George Perez' creations in the 1980s were interesting and bucked superhero traditions; since that time, some attempts to make the characters “edgy” have only resulted in making them stereotypical and safe.

DC Trade Solicitations for November 2021 — Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 1, Rorschach and Strange Adventures by King, Teen Titans Academy Vol. 1, Crisis on Multiple Earths Book Two, Flintstones Deluxe by Russell, Wonder Woman: Afterworlds

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

It’s the DC Comics trade paperback and hardcover solicitations for November 2021. As is sometimes the case, we just got done talking about the DC Comics Spring 2022 catalog solicitations, so not too-too much new information here, though some details to shade in as some solicitations get updated information.

On the general news front, I was sorry to see James Tynion leaving DC for creator-owned pastures. Seems to me he was doing some “new paradigm for Batman” work that was going to take a while to unfold, and I’m doubtful that will come to everything he wanted nor that others will take up the selfsame banner once he sets it down. It also begs the question, at a time when overall we’ve been wondering what the direction of DC will be under new leadership — pondering, even, if DC will continue to have a “DC Universe” or if things might become more standalone and one-off-ish toward a greater value on simple IP — who’s leading DC’s creative vision?

Following Tynion’s own logic of “five eras of Batman” — of which the Morrison-Snyder-King era ends with Tynion — there’s no clear heir apparent to pick up the mantle; that was essentially Tynion. The new “Shadows of the Bat” event seems to be guided by Mariko Tamaki, which is great, but Tamaki hasn’t been with the franchise long enough for me to glean whether her ambitions might continue to Justice League or a line-wide crossover (it’s up in the air whether a Detective Comics-lead crossover will even turn out to be an important Batman event or something more like the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” footnote).

Another likely candidate for DC’s “lead writer” is Joshua Williamson, given that he’s got the various Infinite Frontier titles and has been teasing big things to come; I think Williamson is most likely to steer DC’s big story ship and I’ve long admired his genuine-seeming love for DC, though I’ve found much with which to quibble in his actual work. Brian Michael Bendis has Justice League right now, usually the step before running a big DC crossover (and DC would be silly not to get a true line-wide Bendis event in their backlist), though his reduced title count and all his Jinxworld books moving to Dark Horse makes one wonder how long he is for DC. (And most assuredly whatever Amazon is willing to pay Tynion for content, they’re ready to pay at least as much to Bendis.)

My final long-shot guess for “DC story lead” is Tom Taylor, and that’s hardly so much of a long-shot as it used to be. I only ding Taylor a little as compared to Williamson or Bendis because Taylor doesn’t have that much experience writing dedicated runs within the mainstream DC universe, but that’s changing fast with both his Superman series and Nightwing. And Taylor has swiftly proved himself to be the best writer in the bunch; I wouldn’t at all be disappointed if DC moved Taylor to Batman to replace Tynion, and on up from there.

Oh, you came here to talk about DC’s November 2021 collections? Well, high on the list is Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 1, which is still solicited as a book of Grifter and Red Hood stories, but if DC collects all of issues #1–6 for this book, that’ll include the landmark Tim Drake story as well. The Infinite Frontier train keeps rolling this month with collections of the new Harley Quinn, Green Lantern, Nightwing, Teen Titans Academy, and Wonder Woman.

If you can’t get enough of what Tom King’s going to do this time, these solicitations have both the Rorschach and Strange Adventures collections, and I’m pleased to see that King is one writer still getting work at DC with his Supergirl and Human Target miniseries (plus whenever Batman/Catwoman finishes). Long-time readers will cheer and sigh that DC’s picked up collecting the Crisis on Multiple Earths stories again, with the second book in these listings. If the Flintstones deluxe edition were coming out right now, given I’m in something of a drought of DC titles to read, I’d pick it up in a heartbeat.

So OK — let’s take the big look.

All-Star Superman: The Deluxe Edition

Perhaps kind of astounding this didn’t already exist, it’s a deluxe-size edition of the 12-issue miniseries by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.

Annotated Sandman Vol. 1

With the Netflix show getting closer and closer, this is issues #1-20 (being Preludes and Nocturnes, Doll's House, and Dream Country, due out in March in hardcover. Annotated by award-winning researcher Leslie S. Klinger.

The Batman Box Set

Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Ego and Other Tails, and Batman: Year One, seemingly in a The Batman movie-branded box.

Batman vs. Ra's Al Ghul

Hardcover collection of the new Neal Adams six-issue miniseries.

Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 6

Collects Batman #475-483 and Detective Comics #642, including the Ventriloquist and Maxie Zeus, and creative teams including Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, and Doug Moench and Jim Aparo. Notably, this book ends right where the Batman: Prelude to Knightfall collection begins; the solicitation doesn't call this the last volume, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is. If so, I'm so glad this collection series of Batman's post-Crisis adventures made it to its finish point, and what a wonderful set of books. I can only hope DC does the same thing with post-Crisis Superman at least up to "Death of Superman."

Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 1

Said to be Batman: Urban Legends #1-6. The solicitation only mentions Red Hood and Grifter by Chip Zdarsky and Matthew Rosenberg respectively, but unless DC is going to split these up by character instead of issue, then this may very well also collect the notable three-part Tim Drake story by Meghan Fitzmartin.

Batman/Superman: The Archive of Worlds

This had been previously solicited as Vol. 1, but is now just “Archive of Worlds” on its own. That probably reflects the fact that this book has already been cancelled, and though contents aren’t listed, probably this is #16-22 from Gene Luen Yang, Ivan Reis, and company. I had high hopes for this from Gene Luen Yang, given that depicting the Golden Age Superman seems to have been where he's had the most success with DC, though clearly the market wasn’t there.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Book 2: Crisis Crossed

Pre-Crisis multiversal team-ups, including the Justice League, the Justice Society, Earth-X and the Freedom Fighters, Captain Marvel and the Marvel family, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Jonah Hex and more, being Justice League of America #91-92, #100-102, #107-108, #113-124, #135-137, #147-148, and #159-160. These are more-issue reprints of the former Crisis on Multiple Earths collections; this volume collects the third and fourth volumes of those and into the fifth.

DMZ Compendium Two

Re-collecting the final half of the Brian Wood series in paperback, issues #37-72.

Fables Compendium Four

The final Fables compendium volume, said to collect issues #114-150.

Fables: The 20th Anniversary Box Set

Seems to collect the four Fables Compendium volumes, being issues #1-150 plus The Last Castle, 1001 Nights of Snowfall, Werewolves of the Heartland, Jack of Fables #33-35, and The Literals #1-3.

The Flash By Geoff Johns Omnibus Vol. 3

Arrives now at collecting Geoff Johns' post-Wally West work with Barry Allen. Said to collect Final Crisis: Rogue’s Revenge #1-3, Flash: Rebirth #1-6, Flash #1-12, Blackest Night: The Flash #1-3, Flash Secret Files and Origins 2010 #1, and Flashpoint #1-5.

The Flintstones: The Deluxe Edition

In hardcover in February, collecting Mark Russell and Steve Pugh's entire Flintstones run — Flintstones #1-12 and the Booster Gold/The Flintstones Special.

Gen 13: Starting Over: The Deluxe Edition

At one point this was said to collect Gen13: Lost in Paradise #1, Gen13 #1-5, Gen13 European Vacation #1, Gen13 Backlist #1, Gen13 #0-5, Wildstorm Universe Sourcebook #1, and Gen13: Encore No. 1. This most recent solicitation has it at the #0-5 issues of the first and second volumes of Gen13 plus pages from the Wildstorm Universe Sourcebook #1.

Green Lantern Vol 1: Invictus

In paperback in December, starring John Stewart, Teen Lantern Keli Quintela, and Far Sector's Jo Mullein. Previous solicitations said this collected Future State: Green Lantern #1-2 and Green Lantern #1-4; the earlier solicitation also mentioned Jessica Cruz (possibly in reference to Future State), though that’s been removed from this new solicitation.

Harley Quinn Vol. 1: No Good Deed

The first post-Future State volume by Stephanie Nicole Phillips and Riley Rossmo, in hardcover.

Justice League by Scott Snyder Deluxe Edition Book Three

Issues #26-39 of the Scott Snyder series, being the tail end of the Sixth Dimension collection plus the Justice/Doom War collection.

Mister Miracle: The Great Escape

A YA take on Mister Miracle by Varian Johnson and Daniel Isles. This looks promising and I’d be eager to see it have future volumes, especially if the author intends to trace some of the twists and turns of Scott Free’s New Genesis origins.

Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light

The first Nightwing volume post-Future State, renumbered again, by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo. Previously said to collects issues #78-83 in paperback, but this solicitation shows hardcover.

Rorschach

In hardcover, collecting issues #1-12 by Tom King and Jorge Fornes. Previously this has been solicited to come out the same day as King’s Strange Adventures hardcover; now this is December 7 and Strange Adventures is December 14. Still a good time for King fans.

The Sandman: The Deluxe Edition Book Five

Collects Sandman #70-75, Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1-4, Sandman: Endless Nights, Sandman: Dream Hunters 30th Anniversary Edition (prose version), and Dust Covers: The Collected Sandman Covers. Arriving in February in hardcover. Interesting, the solicitation calls this “the final deluxe harcover,” so it looks like Overture won’t be included in these books, perhaps because the miniseries already has a deluxe edition on its own. Still might’ve been nice to have a complete run with the same branding on the shelf.

Strange Adventures

In hardcover by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Doc Shaner, collecting Strange Adventures #1-12. Comes out December 14, the week after King’s Rorschach hardcover.

Superman: Red & Blue

Hardcover collecting issues #1-6, with stories by John Ridley, Brandon Easton and Steve Lieber, Wes Craig, and Marguerite Bennett and Jill Thompson.

Teen Titans Academy Vol. 1: X Marks The Spot

In hardcover, coming in January, the first collection of the series by Tim Sheridan and Rafa Sandoval.

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Afterworlds

In paperback, the first post-Future State volume (with new numbering) by Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Travis Moore. Not that it’s that much of a mystery, but this solicitation spoils one plot point from the end of Dark Nights: Death Metal.

Review: Indiana Jones Omnibus Vol. 1 trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

Sunday, August 15, 2021

[Guest reviewer Zach King blogs about movies as The Cinema King. Don’t miss his recent Archaeology August review series of the Indiana Jones movies, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark, at the site.]

I never had a dog, but I’ve got a lot of fond memories of my father bringing home Raiders of the Lost Ark from a McDonald’s promotional VHS giveaway. Judging by the dates (Christmas 1991), I may even have seen the Indiana Jones movies before I saw Star Wars – which is a huge revelation for me. Unlike Star Wars, however, Indiana Jones didn’t seem to have a comparable afterlife in merchandise and expanded universe material. We’ve only gotten a smattering of novels, a handful of video games, and the occasional Lego set.