Trade odds and ends 11-30-05

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I was sorry to learn today that Grasshopper Comics would be going out of business. Though prices may often have been an issue, this site was dedicated to the "trade paperback cause," and they did post images of both the front and back covers of trade, something that's rare to see. Someone did a lot of work over at that site, and they should be commended for it.


Hovy notes over at Gotham Lounge that Barnes and Noble has listed the second Seven Soldiers of Victory trade, apparently to be released in March. If the date is right, this is awful close on the heels of the first trade ... and that's great! Unfortunately, other headlines from Barnes & Noble are few and far between, as the site is incredibly hard to navigate. For one particular headache, trying searching for keyword "Batman" and get stuck in B&N trying to sell holiday presents, instead of an actual inventory list.

One other that I did find is Showcase Presents: Superman Family, which should make some of the archivists among us happy. And as an added bonus, here's the synopsis of Geoff Johns and Paul Kupperburg's upcoming JSA novel:

In a story that spans the generations, the Justice Society of America (JSA) and the Injustice Society battle in typical superheroic fashion, except that the catylst for the rise in criminal movement is the Spear of Destiny—the mythical weapon said to have pierced the side of Christ.

From the dark days of World War II through the modern age, the heroes of the JSA—Hawkman, Hourman, Hawkgirl, the Atom, Green Lantern, Thunderbolt, Mr. Terrific, Wildcat, Dr. Fate, and the others—have faced countless magical foes. But with the Spear in his hands, the Wizard is much more than just a costumed thug.

The fate of the world is at stake, and even the most powerful hero isn't enough to stop the destruction.

So there you go.

The Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen review

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Well, no one is going to accuse Geoff Johns of decompressed storytelling with The Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen. One minute Wally is fighting Abra Kadabra, the next minute he's running alongside Jay Garrick. Blink and he's up on the Watchtower, racing Superman, teaming up with Nightwing, talking to Green Arrow, visiting his Aunt Iris, talking to Green Arrow again ... and that's without the way the stories whip and weave through Identity Crisis. Frankly, so much happens in this trade, it's sometimes hard to get a handle on it all, but with appearances by nearly every character in the DCU, you're bound to find something to enjoy while you're reading it.

The Secret of Barry Allen picks up immediately after the end of The Flash: Ignition, and it is essentially--speed-stealing villains, tampered breaks, and mindwipes aside--about Wally coming to terms with the absence of his wife, Linda. His ultimate decision makes sense--and works, in the rubric of Geoff Johns' grand redefining of Wally West as "the blue collar hero"--though the decision's resonance suffers due to the crossover-heavy nature of the trade. Wally chooses to stay with Linda, to continue their relationship, because to leave her for safety's sake would be to let the villains win. Which makes sense, except that the "villain" in question was Jean Loring, and her whole intention was for the heroes to grow closer to their loved ones. It doesn't quite make sense. Additionally, we only "hear" about heroes distancing themselves from their families through Wally's dialogue; it isn't brought home to us, and it doesn't seem real. It's hard to admire Wally for being different when "different" isn't shown.

And such is the works/doesn't work relationship that this trade has with Identity Crisis. The trade fills in some gaps in the miniseries--the aftermath of the JLA/Deathstroke fight, played out on the Watchtower--and while these gaps didn't necessarily scream out for filling, Johns makes the most of them, offering a nice Kyle Rayner moment in the above instance. And a scene of Elongated Man, Zatanna and others in the Watchtower prior to Identity Crisis does a good job of "placing" these characters before the miniseries. At the same time, it sometimes felt like The Flash was rewriting Identity Crisis unnecessarily. It's hard to take seriously Green Arrow's claim in Identity Crisis that the JLA never mind-wiped a villain after Dr. Light, when The Flash shows they never did it again--except once! And Wally exits the trade with a conversation with Batman that, while interesting, seems better to have appeared in a Batman or Robin comic book--again, The Flash taking a vaunted but somewhat awkward role as Identity Crisis's spokesperson.

Finally, Geoff Johns again shows his strengths with the trade's supporting characters. His somewhat wishy-washy Linda Park has always been a sore spot for me, but I continue to love his use of the Reverse Linda, Ashley Zolomon, toward pure metaphoric bliss. Zolomon's "stand by your man" promise to Zoom plays well off Wally's marital troubles, and I loved the interaction between Wally and Ashley Zolomon--up through and including the unexpected mid-trade twist. The small glimpses of Mirror Master's drug problem also works to humanize the Rogues.

The Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen is a perfect bridge betweem the Identity and Infinite Crisis, with a Villains United cameo in the end. The trade also crystalizes Geoff Johns' vision for the Flash--he's the hero that saves your life, and changes your car's oil while he's at it. It's fresh, it's interesting, and it's a shame that Johns is leaving the series--I hope the next writer keeps this approach.

Now on to the JSA Identity Crisis crossover, JSA: Lost, and then maybe Green Lantern: Rebirth. Happy belated Thanksgiving, all!

Gotham Central TPB tidbit in Rucka interview

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Over at Newsarama, Greg Rucka talks the end of Gotham Central, including this tidbit:

Likewise, though there are only two trade paperback collections of the series available, Rucka said that the full run of the series will eventually be collected into trades.
No telling when, where, or how accurate, but it'd be awful nice if it was true.

Review: Superman vs. The Flash trade paperback (DC Comics)

I tend to go into reading Pre-Crisis DCU stories with the aim to read them as if they fit in the Post-Crisis DCU. And all things considered, it's not really that hard. Replace a Wonder Woman with a Black Canary here, ignore a smile on Batman's face there (or chalk it up to that's how Batman "was" back when Dick Grayson was Robin) there. And then other times, it gets a little harder, as with Superman's race with Barry (Flash) Allen, when he uses his Super-Ventriloquism. Yes, folks, his Super-Ventriloquism.

And lest you be confused, dear readers, a note from the editor explains that while regular people give the illusion of throwing their voices using ventriloquism, Superman can actually throw his voice using Super-Ventriloquism. Which means, near as I can tell, Superman's voice actually leaves his body, goes across the room, whispers in your ear, and goes back to him. It's amazing, folks!

I jest. It's actually these little bits that make Superman vs. the Flash so much fun. And since nearly all the stories take place about ten years apart, this trade also offers a wonderful cross-section of both Pre- and Post-DCU history. The stories are, no pun intended, quick, certainly quicker than some of the three-parters found in the Crisis on Multiple Earths trades, and though some of the stories are hokey, the hokiness nearly never gets in the way of reading the tale.

It was also interesting for me reading this tale because, more or less, Wally West is who I know as the Flash. Though it may have been Barry Allen behind the cowl on Super Friends, "Barry Allen" as a person has always been synonymous with "that guy who died during the Crisis that Wally West looks up to." So all my impressions of Barry are usually filtered through my knowledge of what came afterward, and therefore I have a hard time relating with people who liked Barry for Barry, or even, Wally West's outrage in places like Identity Crisis--I just can't feel it, because Barry Allen isn't a paragon for me, he's just a martyr (the same is somewhat true with Hal Jordan, though I'll touch on that more when I review Green Lantern: Rebirth). So I enjoyed in this trade also reading about Barry Allen and seeing him as a person, as well as small moments as in the first story where he's hiding his identity from Iris Allen, and in the second story after he's revealed who he is.

Also excellent here are the villains. I won't spoil all of them, but it was interesting to me that Barry Allen fights Abra Kadabra early in the trade, and then Wally fights him at the end of the trade--in comics published almost thirty years apart! I know these characters have been around a long time, but when you see that, at root, the stories we're reading now are not that different--almost identical, really--from stories people read decades ago ... well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And look for another big-time Flash baddie as well, along with a notable Super-villain cameo.

I bought Superman vs. Flash mainly for the DC First: Superman vs. Flash tale, and it was worth it all around. That DC First story is very accessible even if you're not up on current Flash storylines, but it helps bridge a Flash/JLA continuity gap, as well, plus nice Geoff Johns characterization of Jay Garrick. I'm off to read a couple of other Flash trades now before Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen, and I'm glad I had this "time" with Barry Allen, as it were, before I did.

To all, a good night.

DC Comics Trade Solicitations for February 2006

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hey! DC Comics solicitations for February 2006, and they include some advance trade paperback solicitations for March! First up, a couple we already knew about:

Written by Andersen Gabrych, Bill Willingham, Devin Grayson, Bruce Jones and Will Pfeifer
Art by Pete Woods, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and others
Cover by James Jean
A pivotal collection featuring BATMAN #643-644, DETECTIVE COMICS #809-810, and material from BATMAN ALLIES SECRET FILES 2005 and BATMAN VILLAINS SECRET FILES 2005!
On sale Feb 15 • 128 pg, FC, $12.99 US

Written by Judd Winick
Art by Phil Hester, Tom Fowler, Eric Battle, Tommy Castillo and others
Cover by James Jean
Collecting GREEN ARROW #40-50, guest-starring the Teen Titans and Outsiders! Star City’s underworld has been taken over by Brick, who, along with the Riddler, wants Green Arrow dead! And Mia Dearden, Green Arrow’s new ward, also faces new highs and lows!
On sale February 1 • 256 pg, FC, $17.99 US

Written and illustrated by various
Cover by Alex Ross
Collecting some of the stand-out tales from the long history of the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, from the Silver Age through INFINITE CRISIS! Included here are JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #19, #77, #122, #166-168, JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, JLA SECRET FILES #1, JLA #61, and the 3-page origin from JLA #200, pencilled by George Pérez!
On sale Feb 22 • 192 pg, FC, $19.99 US

Written by Phil Jimenez and Judd Winick
Art by José Luis García-Lopez, Alé Garza, George Pérez, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning and others
Cover by Jimenez & Pérez
An amazing collection featuring TITANS/YOUNG JUSTICE: GRADUATION DAY #1-3 and DC SPECIAL: THE RETURN OF DONNA TROY #1-4! !
On sale Feb 1 • 176 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Written by Greg Rucka and Geoff Johns
Art by Rags Morales, Drew Johnson, Justiniano, Michael Bair, and others
Cover by J.G. Jones
Collecting WONDER WOMAN #214-217 and THE FLASH #219! Just as Wonder Woman is starting to deal with her blindness, the Cheetah returns and teams with the Reverse-Flash! Then Athena sends Wonder Woman on a journey of unimagined peril!
On sale Feb 8 • 128 pg, FC, $12.99US

But wait, there's more! (My comments in bold)

Written by Mark Verheiden and Gail Simone
Art and cover by Ed Benes, John Byrne and Nelson
The events that have turned the DCU upside down are reflected in this collection of stories from SUPERMAN #217, 221-225 with pages from ACTION COMICS #83 [?]. After his first contact with an OMAC, Superman must contend with the arrivals of Bizarro and Zoom before dealing once and for all with a souped-up Blackrock!
On sale Feb 22 • 144 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Superman: The Journey! It is coming out! And it includes the missing Superman #217! Yahoo!

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Ed Benes, Ron Adrian, Jim Fern, Eric Battle, Eduardo Barreto and others
Cover by Matt Haley
A new volume collecting BIRDS OF PREY #69-75! Huntress goes undercover to infiltrate a religious cult with a dangerous secret, while Black Canary and Oracle uncover the true nature of Sovereign Brusaw’s organization.
Advance-solicited; on sale March 29 • 176 pg, FC, $16.99 US

Well, it's about time. Nice to see the Birds of Prey trades continuing.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Don Kramer, Keith Champagne and various
Cover by Alex Ross
Don’t miss a new collection featuring JSA #68-75 plus pages from 66-67! The Spectre, without a human host, is running rampant, meting out a brutal form of justice encouraged by the new Eclipso! Plus, Atom Smasher seeks forgiveness, Degaton’s plan to destroy the JSA is thwarted, and more!
Advance-solicited; on sale March 1 • 200 pg, FC,

Nice to see this, too, following up where JSA: Lost left off, and including not only the JSA Day of Vengeance tie-in, "Black Vengeance," but also the "JSA/JSA" storyline.

What a great time to be a trade fan!

Paul Levitz talks JSA trades

Friday, November 11, 2005

Over at Newsarama, DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz talked about his upcoming six-issue stint on JSA, including this paragraph:

And of course, there’s one other benefit that the Paul Levitz of 25 years ago never envisioned: the readily available trade paperback collection of the completed story arc. “Knowing that this will come out in trade is a hoot—I’ve only had one trade paperback done of my writing from the old days, in fact. We’re scheduled to do a second, Justice Society book next year, thanks to all of the recent interest in Power Girl. But seeing this in trade paperback is something I’m looking forward to.”
There's a confusing comma in there between "second" and "Justice," such that I'm not sure if he's saying there will be two JSA trades next year, or if there will be a second JSA title next year, or if there will be a Power Girl title next year, but at least, he's saying that his own six issues will appear in trade. Not that JSA trades were ever considered an endangered species, but it's nice to see it anyway.

Review: Identity Crisis trade paperback collection (DC Comics)

Monday, November 07, 2005

The first time I read Identity Crisis, back when it came out, I walked away having enjoyed it, but thinking predominately that what it sorely lacked was a scene of Superman flying. Sure, I understood the wistful hopefulness of Ralph Dibney's ending conversation with Sue, but to really make the book about hope and not despair, Superman would need to fly again.

I came to find, reading the Identity Crisis hardcover nearly a year later, that low and behold, a scene of Superman flying was in the end all along, and I'd somehow just missed it the first time. And such is the stuff that has garnered this time not just my enjoyment of Identity Crisis, but my respect and admiration for it, too. Because, despite slight evidence to the contrary, I do think Identity Crisis is a hopeful book, and I think Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales have used, and deconstructed, the comics art form well to prove it.

Almost immediately, a comic book trope that Meltzer and Morales explore is the common white-space used to cover the characters' eyes through their masks. As early as Nightwing's first appearance, his eyes bore through his mask directly at the reader. In showing the characters eyes through their masks, the authors make it that much more difficult to view these characters one-dimensionally; if eyes are the windows to the soul, then seeing the eyes of these characters that have been created cannot help but make us feel that much more for them, even if fiction can't feel for itself. It is not coincidence that Nightwing is the first character used in this way; as Robin, he was the first character that positioned the DC heroes as families, instead of vigilantes. It is a theme that carries throughout Identity Crisis.

At the same time, the one character in Identity Crisis given whitened eyes is Batman. When he finally appears, half-way through the story, there is a sense -- both from his whitened eyes and the fact that his presence is made as much as character as Batman himself -- that the character is to be considered more than, or less than, human. It makes it hard to pity Batman; moreover, even as Wally West registers shock at the League's mind-wiping of Batman, that act is kept off-screen (as opposed to the brutal mind-wiping of Dr. Light), increasing the difficulty of sharing Wally's dismay. And yet, we finally do see Batman's eyes -- as he takes off his cowl at the grave of his parents -- overlayed with Green Arrow explaining the League's actions to the Flash, and as Green Arrow notes, Batman knows more than anyone "that you should never underestimate what someone will do for the people they love -- either the League's mind-wiping Batman, or Batman's quest to avenge his parents.

Meltzer suggests here that Batman understands, and perhaps even approves, of the League's actions; this is further proved, in my interpretation, on the last few pages, when Batman stares Wally down. There are two panels of Batman staring, almost identical, but the second panel looks to me lighter and softer -- the suggestion that Batman takes pity on Wally. This is an opinion somewhat challenged by The OMAC Project and JLA: Crisis of Conscience, where Batman rebels at the League for their mindwiping, but I maintain that, at least as far as Identity Crisis is concerned, there's the suggestion that Batman understands.

Another trope reimagined through the Identity Crisis lens is the struggle between good guys and bad guys. Ordinarily, we might say, a comic book features the heroes acting heroically against the villains working for evil. Instead, in Identity Crisis, not only are we faced with heroes acting outside the usual realm of moral certainty, but also villains working both for and with each other. Granted, both Deathstroke and the Calculator assist other villains for a fee, but we also see the deep parental love that Captain Boomerang has for his son--a note of commonality between both heroes and villains. Moreover, both heroes and villains die during Identity Crisis -- and the culprit turns out to be neither one nor the other.

In Identity Crisis, we find not the usual heroes verus villains, but instead heroes and villains existing side-by-side, somewhat similar. And I think we should also give special notice to a sequence early in the book, after Bolt is shot by a couple of small-time crooks, where Bolt begs one crook to call an ambulance, and the crook does. It's an unexpected act of villain-to-villain compassion, given to show not only that the line between hero and villain is not so ardent as we might think, but that just as heroes can sometimes be villains, villains sometimes have the potential to be heroes, too.

There's been some charge since Identity Crisis came out that Meltzer and company have played willy-nilly with the DC Universe, leaving careless destruction in their wake. Certainly, I can see where one can think that -- I can understand the use of Dr. Light raping Sue Dibny as a gauntlet thrown down to venture into the uncharted areas of comics, but I'm also not sure it was really a gauntlet that ever needed throwing; I understand Warren Ellis's point, even if I don't agree one-hundred percent, that if DC really meant business, they would have used Lois Lane instead of Sue Dibny (I think Ellis said this).

But Meltzer largely redeems the story, and shows an awareness of what he's done -- the rape, the mindwipes, et al -- in again a conversation between Wally West and Green Arrow. Wally cries, "But don't you understand? You ruined it." Ollie doesn't really answer, but earlier, he tells Wally that "people always believed it was simpler back then. But it wasn't." Here is the inherit argument for and against Identity Crisis: Wally, who believes the stories of the Silver Age ruined, and Ollie, who sees the stories of the Silver Age explained and redeemed. If it were not for these sequences, one could argue that Identity Crisis is a waste, destruction for destruction's sake. But unquestionably there's a motive here, a motive even willing to question itself, and in that it proves itself capable of wisdom.

What we have in Identity Crisis is a deconstruction of the superhero genre that uses this deconstruction at every turn to show how the characters of comics are richer, more human, and more humane. It is a story that, I believe, ends with pity, ends with forgiveness, and ends with understanding, and is even willing to allow for its own faults within the context of the book. When Superman flies in the end, it is the symbolic representation of the same thing we see when Ralph says good-night to the departed Sue -- that, even if wounds don't heal, life goes on. Identity Crisis shows, in my opinion, that Superman can still fly in the end of any story--even a story that challenges how we ready comics themselves--as Ma Kent whispers to Clark, "no matter what."


And now I start my Identity Crisis tie-in reading, beginning with The Flash. Join me, won't you?

Absolute Sandman announced

According to Newsarama (as revealed at Wizard World Texas), next up for the Absolute treatment is Absolute Sandman. As for the who, what, where (which issues, how many volumes), word is that we'll hear more this week. Stay tuned!

OMAC Project and Day of Vengeance TPBs released

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Apparently the Day of Vengeance TPB was released this week, though I'm pretty sure it was scheduled for next week. Hey, I'm not complaining. And check out the cool "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" trade dress on both titles.

Though, I will admit to being a little surprised to see, on the back of the OMAC Project TPB, the copy noting that the trade includes "the vital OMAC PROJECT 3.5 chapter." After the gigantic tempest-in-a-teacup flap that DC faced over Wonder Woman #219 serving as an OMAC Project tie-in, the last thing I expected to hear is their actually calling OMAC Project #3.5. But I guess it's less confusing to new readers, and if the shoe fits ...

Identity Crisis hardcover review coming soon (yes, I know it's like the umpteen-trillionth Identity Crisis review out there, but I'll try to have something new to say). Ciao!