Trade Perspectives: More on Johns-ian comics and DC's New Earth

Monday, July 30, 2007

[Contains spoilers for Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13]

Frequent Collected Editions commenter Michael sent me an email the other day (see email address at right) in response to my review of Absolute DC: New Frontier:
You seem to be saying that Johns and Meltzer are positive-leaning writers and I don't think that is true at all. The way I see the current DC is dark and dank and cynical. Meltzer [wrote a comic where villains] killed and raped Sue Dibny. None of the heroes are acting in the heroic fashion Cooke has them in here. And every other month a character is killed or kills someone. I think before DC is the positive place you're hoping for, Dan DiDio has to go. ... You seem like we'd agree on it but I'm not sure. Thanks for a good review though, it's nice to know what's inside!
Michael's note gives me an opportunity to clarify some of the points in my review. In my discussion of how Absolute DC: New Frontier represents a trend toward "Johns-ian comics" away from the previous "grim and gritty" era, I was looking at a concentrated effort from Countdown to Infinite Crisis through Infinite Crisis itself to brighten DC Comics, spearheaded by Dan Didio, Geoff Johns, and the rest. We have to admit, when you look at "Emerald Twilight," Batman's betraying the JLA to Ra's al Ghul and Batman's general standoff-ish-ness, and the general event-driven comics of the 1990s (the "Death of Superman" story duplicated in Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, and what have you), the DC Universe immediately following Infinite Crisis is a much brighter place--comraderie between the heroes being only the start.

Even if one decries the mass consumerism of the current Countdown to Final Crisis effort, we can still be glad that at least Final Crisis promises to hold more depth and relevance than, say, Genesis. I believe Michael's points above are valid, but I think he's confusing the journey with the destination--yes, Identity Crisis put the DC heroes through the wringer, and yes, Wonder Woman killed Maxwell Lord in The OMAC Project, but these were all stories conceieved in the run-up to Infinite Crisis and the lighter days to follow. It would have been one thing if Sue Dibney went unmourned or Wonder Woman unpunished, but neither is the case--these events were not portrayed lightly nor forgotten quickly. I sooner fault DC for killing the second Dove in order to pull the rug from under in Armageddon 2001 than I do for Sue Dibney's death. While I will grant that there might have been other ways to accomplish the same thing, at least Identity Crisis functioned with the intention of accomplishing better things in the future.

Granted, I would say that the recent death of Bart Allen does shake my confidence somewhat in the "New Earth" of DC Comics. I can't quite believe that DC intended Bart's death from the start of his new series; to that end, Bart's brutal death smacks of the kind of "putting characters out to pasture" that we saw in Zero Hour with the Justice Society, or killing off Oliver Queen to introduce a new Green Arrow right after. Then again, I haven't read the said Flash story yet, and like Fred says, it may be better not to judge until all is said and done.

Anyway, we're continuing to move through our One Year Later reviews here at Collected Editions, with more looks at the brand-new series that came out of Infinite Crisis coming up. And look for more perspectives on DC's new era coming up; it's 2007, we'll posit ... so why does it feel like 1994? More soon.

Thanks for reading!

Review: Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis - Once and Future trade paperback (DC Comics)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I love this Aquaman comic book! Yes, these are words I never thought I'd find myself saying either, and yet having just finished Kurt Busiek's Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis - Once and Future, they're truer than true. Forget what you may have heard about this being a hardcore swords and sorcery book--yes, there's magic here, but there's also superhero action, humor, engaging characters, and some hints of what might make a true Aquaman series great. Sword of Atlantis is a strange recreation of the Aquaman mythos that, as conceived, seems almost doomed to fail, but the actual story itself is a fantasic graphic novel.

Sword of Atlantis follows Arthur Joseph Curry, born with the ability to breathe underwater and raised in isolation until Infinite Crisis dumps him in the ocean. Recruited by the mysterious Dweller of the Deep to fulfill an ancient prophecy, Curry first saves King Shark, and travels with him to visit the refugees of Atlantis, including Queen Mera. Curry and Shark have a series of adventures, meeting the Sea Devils, before they're called on to save Mera's people from slavers lead by the Ocean Master.

One of the best things about Sword of Atlantis is just how likable Arthur Curry is. Curry's an innocent, and as such not only is the ocean as alien to him as it is to the reader, but he completely unfamiliar with the world above the ocean; a scene where Curry first enjoys a cheeseburger is priceless. Curry ends up unwittingly donning the former Aquaman's armor, and spends much of the rest of the trade (with increasing, hilarious frustration) either convincing those he meets that he isn't Aquaman, or having to prove himself to those who consider him unworthy of the former monarch's fins. Curry is a stranger in a strange land, moving from adventure to adventure with Charlie Brown-esque perseverance and reluctant heroism. Rarely has a Aquaman felt this accessible.

Sword of Atlantis has a road trip feel to it, not unlike a "Wagon Train to the Ocean." Curry and King Shark make their way through the ocean on their way to Curry's relatives in Maine, in search of Curry's father, often falling into adventures as they travel. Supporting characters come and go, leaving mystery and dangling plotlines in their wakes; though King Shark may not appear exactly as he's been portrayed before, he makes a fascinating, morally ambiguous companion, and the identity of the Dweller remains a compelling puzzle throughout. Busiek makes good use of many old Aquaman standards, including Mera and Vulko, but always in ways that make their value clear to new readers.

Despite how enjoyable Sword is, however, Busiek continually reminds us that Curry is not "the" Aquaman. The Atlanteans and others consider Curry a "young upstart," much like Kyle Rayner replacing Hal Jordan--there's a sense in Sword that Aquaman has just become a legacy character. It's strongly hinted early on that the Dweller may indeed be "our" Aquaman (though my guess is that he's Tempest, or that he's the embodiment of Aquaman's watery hand), such that Curry can't escape seeming a (very compelling) replacement. I thought of Kevin Smith's Green Arrow while reading Sword, waiting for the hero to return from the dead to replace his replacement; I sooner believe that Curry is meant to be a stand-in until the real Aquaman returns than I do that Bart Allen was meant as a stand-in for the Flash. Curry feels temporary, and Sword more like a plotline in the Aquaman series than a series on its own. Unfortunately, some of the attractiveness of Sword's story also makes it necessarily finite.

Sword of Atlantis is a compelling Aquaman story, strangely even more compelling in Aquaman's absence. From Mera to the Ocean Master to the denizens of an underwater bar, everyone speaks in awe of the original Aquaman, such that the reader can't help but feel the same; the Dweller presents Aquaman's history in such mythic terms that I wonder that it never seemed so mythic before. Even Curry thinks back to what he knew of Aquaman from the old Aquaman cartoon, giving a wide perspective on all of Aquaman's incarnations. Much like JLA: The Obsidian Age, Aquaman seems best used when used sparingly; it's hard to say what this will mean when the hero finally returns.

[Contains full covers; One Year Later symbolized on back and mentioned on copyright page.]

One Year Later continues to impress, and Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis succeeds on multiple levels. I've just seen listings for the second volume, and I'll be awaiting it quite eagerly. More reviews on the way!

Odds and Ends for 7-26-07

Thursday, July 26, 2007

You'll have heard by now that DC's Wildstorm had received the license to publish Heroes ... whether this will lead to original Heroes comics, I'm not sure, but how great is it that this will start with a graphic novel collection of the online Heroes comics? Never before published comics (if you will), originally published in collected form? Yay, graphic novels!

(And in other Heroes news, don't miss that Zachary Quinto's lined up to play Spock in the new Star Trek movie.)

Meanwhile, this Newsarama article on the consumer cost of the Countdown crossovers is just depressing. I mention here in part to hold on to this, so as to compare the costs of the trades of the same after all is said and done. I will say, as impressed as I was with the Countdown to Infinite Crisis miniseries, the Countdown to Final Crisis is just getting ridiculous. Lord Havok and the Extremists? I mean, come on.* Again, look for a price comparison somewhere down the line.

New reviews coming this weekend. Thanks for reading!

* Though, don't forget who once took on the identity of Lord Havok ...

13 on 52: Week Six

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 1.)

Thirteen words for Week Six: Black Adam plot kinda boring, but Booster story great. Excellent foreshadowing; very exciting.

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Six? Post them here!

Review: Teen Titans - Titans Around the World trade paperback (DC Comics)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

With Teen Titans: Titans Around the World, Geoff Johns knocks another story out of the park. I know there's a general outcry over "writing for the trade," but Johns shows great skill in the two four-part stories collected here. Though connected, each story contains its own beginning, middle, and end, and each balances well between being self-contained and setting up future storylines. Indeed, as a One Year Later story, Titans Around the World is specifically geared toward new readers; Cyborg has been comatose for the missing year, and as such serves as the reader's guide to the Titans' new status quo. At the same time, the story is a long-time Titans fan's dream, checking in with a bevy of Titans past.

Johns also appears to have been given carte blanche to create a number of new Titans to replace the departed Superboy and Kid Flash; we see here, among others, kid sidekicks for Captain Atom, Black Adam, Power Girl, Plastic Man, and especially Martian Manhunter. Though Miss Martian's origin is completely inconceivable (perhaps suggesting there's more to it than initially revealed), there's a certain joy to this, as if in the New Earth continuity won't get in the way of positive character developments. Superboy and Kid Flash's absences are still palpable in the title, but Johns offers compelling additions in Kid Devil, Ravager, and Miss Martian.

If anything, Johns appears to have given himself almost too much fodder to address in future stories, from the lost Doom Patrol Members to the untold mission to New Azarath, Kid Devil's secret origin, and even the mysterious substitute Titan Talon, evocative of the animated Titan Red X. This confusion is only increased by the sense that Johns not only foreshadows, but "back-shadows" at times to events playing out in the missing year told in 52. The most effective subplot, however, is the distinctly creepy romance between Robin and Wonder Girl in the wake of Superboy's passing; Johns imbues this with all the awkwardness it merits, though whether the plot is resolved or not at the end of this trade is unclear.

There may, perhaps, be a "Johnsian arc" to the stories that Geoff Johns writes; be it Titans or JSA, there's something that always feels imminently familiar when I'm reading a story by Geoff Johns. At the same time, these stories are for the most part solid, cogent, and well-written, enough so that treading plowed ground doesn't seem like such a bad thing. If you still haven't picked up Teen Titans (who are you?), Titans Around the World is a good place to start.

[Contains full covers, brief One Year Later page.]

So, who's your favorite "world Titan?"

Review: Green Arrow - Crawling Through the Wreckage trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

After leaving Green Arrow seemingly dead before DC Comic's Infinite Crisis crossover, Judd Winick resurrects the often counter-culture hero in Crawling Through the Wreckage as a mainstream politician--the new mayor of Star City. While the unexpected turn for the character is interesting and the book is well-written overall, there's a sense that Winick's trying to accomplish too much with the character. From defeating the super-villain Deathstroke to officiating over gay marriages, Judd Winick's Green Arrow may be a bit more rejuvenated than necessary.

Winick picks up the story one year after explosions leveled half of Star City, and he paints the situation with shades of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. While another voice decrying the New Orleans situation is welcome, Winick's parallels are considerably more heavy-handed than writer Geoff Johns' comparison of Coast City to New Orleans in Green Lantern, and Johns use of the city-as-metaphor predates Winick's by at least a year. Johns, as well, ties fear of starting over into the character of his protagonist, whereas Green Arrow's fight against his city's poverty feels more incidental than personal. As mayor of the city, Green Arrow fights the poverty without actually living in it.

Winick has Oliver Queen perform gay marriages as mayor, and while the political implications are potentially interesting, the move seems more to stir controversy than having any real tie to Winick's story. In fact, Winick stages a faux television argument over the marriages later in the story perhaps again to draw attention to the issue, but the disconnect with the main Green Arrow story is so great that the marriages plot feels tacked-on. The Green Arrow character has always had a component of social activism, and Winick's portrayal of Green Arrow as advocating gay rights is a welcome modernization of Green Arrow's politics, but as with Star City's plight, Winick fails to give the issue real weight.

As with many other of DC Comic's post-Infinite Crisis One Year Later stories, Crawling Through the Wreckage is something of a second origin for Green Arrow, but Winick's story raises the character beyond credibility. Winick writes a furious battle between Green Arrow and Deathstroke, where Arrow is finally able to put the villain in jail when Batman, Nightwing, and many others couldn't. In the previous Green Arrow trade paperback, Heading into the Light, Green Arrow fought Dr. Light, one of the main villains of DC's recent Identity Crisis series, and though Arrow and Light barely have a history, Winick wrote Light as especially focused on Arrow, perhaps raising Green Arrow's cache along with Dr. Light's own. Here Winick seems to be attempting the same thing, letting Arrow trump any of a number of other heroes. In both politics and crime-fighting, Winick attempts to make Green Arrow the everyman, and instead makes him hard to believe.

To be sure, Winick writes an enjoyable Green Arrow, and superhero fans will find a lot to love in this volume. When reading it, however, it helps to imagine Green Arrow as the only hero around--what Winick has written here is the ultimate Green Arrow story, bordering on the obsessive.

[Contains full covers. Thanks to the eagle-eyed reader who noticed that this was originally posted as Green Arrow: Crawling FROM the Wreckage -- the actual book says "through," though this is wrong on and Amazon, among others.]

Friday Night Fights - Bat-Pow!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A little old-school action!

Bang! Splat! Bahlactus!

13 on 52: Week Five

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 1.)

Thirteen words for Week Five: Alan pays military-style condolence call; evokes Identity Crisis. Batista returns to Steel.

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Five? Post them here!

Review: Checkmate: A King's Game trade paperback (DC Comics)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Checkmate feels like the series, more than Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, or even Gotham Central, that Greg Rucka came to DC Comics to write. Letting alone that the series contains a number of characters that Rucka created elsewhere, including Sasha Bordeaux, Jessica Midnight, and Jonah McCarthy, the tone of politics and espionage in Checkmate: A King's Game more closely matched Rucka's Queen and Country than anything before. Additionally, in DC Comic's somewhat kinder, gentler "New Earth," Checkmate offers a fascinating dose of moral ambiguity.

The Checkmate charter is vetoed by the Chinese UN representative, giving the organization only days to operate. A Checkmate team infiltrates a metahuman-creation plant in China, hoping to blackmail the country; they find instead that the plant has been overtaken by Kobra. White King Alan Scott makes a deal for Checkmate's charted to be ratified, but loses his own position. In other stories, a new recruit vies to be the Black Queen's Knight, and Amanda Waller secretly backs a Suicide Squad operation.

At seven issues already, Checkmate is an especially thick read, perhaps the most dialogue-heavy comic I've read in a while. While there's action here, certainly, there's perhaps even more politicing. Unlike the White House action of Ex Machina, Checkmate takes place in the UN, and there's an almost alarming amount of discussion here of resolutions, vetos, and national policies.

DC Comics, to be sure, takes a risk in that Checkmate's intellectualism will turn off the casual reader, but presented here in trade form, I was pleased to find a comic that expects as much as Checkmate does from its reader. In addition, Checkmate's plodding deliberation helps to balance some of the death and destruction caused by the team elsewhere in A King's Game's pages.

From the first pages of A King's Game, we see the team--including former Justice Leaguer Fire--kill their enemies. To be sure, no one who dies is ever completely innocent, but the amount of killing is shocking all the same. Rucka offers Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott as the voice of moderation, working within Checkmate to minimize casulaties. Scott references Wonder Woman's murder of Maxwell Lord as an example of how people lose faith with murdering heroes; former Suicide Squad leader Amanda Waller, as his opposite, suggests that the more dangerous world that we live in requires more dangerous solutions.

The audience, of course, is more likely to side with Scott, though we get the sense that by associating with Checkmate at all, Scott is himself already sullied; that Scott is then voted out of Checkmate leaves the moral future of the team that much more ambiguous. Like the Outsiders, Checkmate is a glimpse of the darker side of the DC Universe; while nothing to aspire to, the questions raised by Checkmate are fun and interesting nonetheless.

I lost a little interest in Checkmate in the last two chapters, which was more a Suicide Squad tale than Checkmate. Though Suicide Squad certainly enjoys a wide following, the story builds upon quite a lot of Suicide Squad lore that I just wasn't that familiar with, and it made it hard to be all that engaged. The first five chapters certainly are good enough to balance out the last two, but hopefully the next trade remains more on course throughout.

[Contains full covers.]

Our One Year Later train continues with Green Arrow, Teen Titans, and more!

Friday Night Fights - This is what you get ...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hal Jordan fought the law ...

... and the law won! (But in the galactic tribunal, Bahlactus is king!)

52: Volume Two cover revealed

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Amazon's got the new cover for the second volume of the 52 trade paperback series up.

I like this one a lot better than the first; DC's still going for the movie poster approach, but the characters don't quite seem as crowded, and there's more variance--it's not just the main 52 cast, but instead a broader view of the DCU.

What do you think?

13 on 52: Week Four

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 1.)

Thirteen words for Week Four: Mysteries abound. Booster Gold, other inexplicable characterizations offer clues. Bennett's art striking.

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Four? Post them here!

Review: JSA: Ghost Stories trade paperback (DC Comics)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

JSA: Ghost Stories works as the closing chapter to the uber-successful JSA series. Beginning during a rainy night in Infinite Crisis and continuing One Year Later with undead specters on nearly every page, Ghost Stories actually accomplishes an air of creepiness that makes the story a joy to read. Even better, the trade focuses solely on one plot, giving the book the feel of a graphic novel or an extended Justice Society adventure. The continuity is light enough for the casual reader, but with enough hints of 52 and the missing year to tantalize DCU fans.

Ghost Stories does a good job emphasizing some of the stronger personalities of the JSA. Front and center here are JSA stalwarts Jay (The Flash) Garrick and Alan (Green Lantern) Scott. With the JSA having disbanded during One Year Later, each hero is considering retirement, especially Alan, who lost his daughter Jade in the Crisis. Alan Scott has always been considered the most strict of the older heroes in the JSA, and in this story there's something very engaging about his brooding persona, especially during an extended sequence when he confronts a tragedy from his youth. Jakeem Thunder, Stargirl, and even Ma Hunkel get moments to shine.

At the same time, Ghost Stories risks making the JSA feel a little stodgy. The trade is written by DC publisher Paul Levitz, and the trade reflects somewhat older sensibilities--the disbanded JSA still gets together every week, as it were, in order to play Scrabble. During a later sequence, Alan Scott is injured and spends most of an issue in a hospital bed, looking fairly aged. There's also an extended sequence that seems to have no more point than to point out Stargirl's, shall we say, "innocence" versus Power Girl's "experience," that never really goes anywhere. All of these things reinforce the sense that the JSA are not quite the hipsters that the Titans or the Justice League are, though regular writer Geoff Johns generally makes this feel less the case.

The trade copy emphasizes an appearance by the Golden Age Batman, and delivers, though Batman's role here is not nearly as large as the back of the book suggests. Certainly if one were considering whether the Multiverse exists again or not, this would be your proof. I do tend to wonder, though, whether even when the Multiverse's new role in the DCU is fully explained, if it will make sense why the Golden Age Batman should be stuck in the New Earth's spirit realm fighting beside Jade and the Golden Age Mr. Terrific. The appearance is great, but perhaps shouldn't be studied too closely, but at the same time, I was somewhat disappointed to see Jade here; knowing that the hero "lives on" just beyond the heroes' sight tends to cheapen her death a bit, even with the caveat that the dead are more apparent because of the Gentleman Ghost's machinations.

Levitz' JSA tale is not the greatest the book has ever been, but it is an interesting, fast-paced story, and a worthwhile introduction to the JSA (even as one series ends and another begins). The next time a thunderstorm knocks out your power, JSA: Ghost Stories is a good choice to read curled up with your flashlight.

[Contains full covers.]

Following a bit of continuity now into the first Checkmate trade, and on from there! Want to review a trade for Collected Editions? Send an email to the address at right.

Review: Robin: Wanted trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Well, I'm not sure I know what all the fuss was about. Adam Beechen's Robin, premiering in Robin: Wanted is very solidly done, and after the first trade, probably the best written (or at least, the least objectionable) since Chuck Dixon. Of course, I get where the whole Batgirl-gone-crazy controversy may have put some people off, but in all, for what I can only consider to be a poor editorial idea, I think Beechen framed it quite well, following in line with what Andersen Gabrych began in Batgirl: Destruction's Daughter (see the Collected Editions review here).

Beechen's Tim Drake feels immediately more natural than the "hipster cool" voice with which the character was written by Jon Lewis, and without the jarring pacing and supernatural elements in Bill Willingham's run. In just the first two chapters, Tim gets framed for murder and must break in to -- and out of -- police headquarters. There's a fantastic, frenetic pace to the stories that feels youthful, while at the same time perfectly grounded in the overall Batman universe. Robin is depicted here as both a hero and a detective befitting both his time on the job and his status as leader of the Teen Titans, and it's refreshing to see that portrayal in his own title.

One can discern from various interviews (one at Comic Book Resources) that plans for the Batgirl character, Cassandra Cain, were neither entirely Andersen Gabrych's nor Adam Beechen's. I applauded Gabrych for making Batgirl's turn to madness emotionally gripping, at least. In Wanted, Beechen offers another plausible reason for Batgirl's turn to evil, the revelation of a sister she never knew she had, leading her to believe that her father Cain though of her as replaceable, and that Batman believes Robin replaceable, too. Beechen smartly gives weight to Batgirl's claims by making Robin momentarily doubt his relationship with Batman, even as he knows his fears are groundless. What follows is a preciously awkward scene between Batman and Robin that showed a markedly different Batman in DC Comic's post-Infinite Crisis era.

The final two chapters of the trade would be a classic heroes-misunderstand-and-then-team-up story, if not for the fact that the new Captain Boomerang's father murdered Tim Drake's. Beechen avoids melodrama here, and frames the story within perfect sidekick fare -- Robin and Boomerang go on a scavenger hunt not after villains, but after abandoned villain hideouts -- letting the conflict between the two heroes unfold naturally. They end not as friends, but with Robin offering Boomerang the grudging respect that the reader can see Boomerang deserves.

Robin is a character that, through his most recent incarnations, has built up a lot of angst, but Beechen instead portrays him as a mostly rational young adult. Beechen, frankly, brings a lot of common sense to Robin that feels like it's been missing. Unfortunately, Beechen's only sticking around for the next Robin trade paperback before handing the title off to another writer, but hopefully the tone he's set in this DC "One Year Later" trade paperback will stick around after he's gone.

[Contains full covers. "One Year Later" mentioned on back.]

Our One Year Later jaunt continues with JSA, Checkmate, and more. Any requests?

Review: Outsiders: The Good Fight trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

It's a cliche to say, but the Outsiders truly are back and better than ever. Outsiders: The Good Fight, the fifth volume of Judd Winick's Outsiders series, reintroduces the team after jumping a year forward in time as part of DC Comic's "One Year Later" event. With this trade, writer Judd Winick returns to the premise of Outsiders, a team of rogue heroes taking a proactive stance against villains, and the premise works better and feels more natural than it did even when the series started.

With The Good Fight, Winick has cut a lot of dead weight from The Outsiders, and what's left is more interesting by far. The Outsiders team began from the ashes of the Titans, at times a sidekick support group, when the Titan Donna Troy died. Though Titans Nightwing and Arsenal formed the Outsiders to create a team without emotional bonds, the characters often second-guessed themselves because of Troy's death. With Troy returned to life, the Outsiders now have at their core only their mission of hunting bad guys, and serves to make the stories both more focused and more fun.

The new Outsiders shrinks a sometimes large cast down to just six heroes, allowing for greater focus on the individual members. Nightwing returns in the lead after leaving the team, and Katana, a member of an earlier incarnation of Outsiders, works as his second-in-command. The villain Captain Boomerang appears after the year-long break working with the heroes; that his father killed the father of the current Robin will undoubtedly be addressed. Winick's creations Grace and Thunder are back, and Thunder seems as different--sporting a new costume and more confident attitude--as Grace seems unchanged, at least until we learn the two have started a relationship, and Grace may not be entirely human. And Metamorpho joins the team, replacing his shape-changing clone Shift, as Winick drops hints that Shift may have been responsible for a crime during the missing year. These characters are far more genuinely "outsiders" than the original team, and their quirky nature only adds to the book's appeal.

Winick portrays the Outsiders as a team truly willing to bend the rules in order to get results, a goal professed but nevcer achieved by teams like Extreme Justice and the former Outsiders incarnation. Over the course of The Good Fight, the Outsiders both overthrow a dictator and blow up a nuclear reactor, gaining the attention of both the Checkmate spy organization and Superman himself. The scene where Nightwing threatens Superman with a box of kryptonite that everyone believes is fake, but turns out to be real, is especially effective. Outsiders: The Good Fight is a true black ops superhero drama, the likes of which only barely seen before in Joe Kelly's excellent Justice League Elite, and I'm eager for the next volume. My sincere hope is that Winick can keep up this same tone and pace as the series continues.

[Contains full covers.]

More One Year Later trade reviews on the way!

Collected Linkblogging for 7-4-07

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Collected Editions is feeling the blogosphere love:

  • Shane of Near Mint Heroes gives a shout-out to Collected Editions in his Newsarama Meanwhile column (and gives a shout-out to the Dandy Warhols, too).

  • Chris at the Collected Comics Library mentions Collected Editions's 52: The Companion run-down again in his latest CCL Podcast.

    And elsewhere:

  • The Graphic Novel archive has been doing a great series on Transformers trade paperbacks, in time for the movie.

  • Mike at Progressive Ruin puts the lie to DC's current Flash plans; Collected Editions has wondered how much of that was really "on purpose," too.

    See you around!
  • 13 on 52: Week Three

    (Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 1.)

    Thirteen words for Week Three: Black Adam and Luthor throw gauntlet, series gets moving. Show full baseball season?

    Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Three? Post them here!

    Trade Perspectives: Libraries, bookstores vie for trade selection

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    A faithful reader tipped me off to this article by John Shableski about graphic novels in libraries and bookstores. Shableski points to libraries, above bookstore and even comic book stores, where readers are likely to find the best representation of graphic novels. He also points to a growth in online sales as online stores post a better selection of trades than bookstores, though this is likely to change as bookstores get the message. Shableski writes:
    What is it worth? According to Milton Griepp of, a website that follows the comics and pop culture industry, graphic novels sales have exploded from $43 million in 2001 to $330 million in 2006. That figure doesn't include merchandising or movie ticket sales.

    ... So, you ask: if graphic novels are such a big deal then why aren't the big boxes doing more? Because they really don't understand it. It is amazing to see so little space devoted to a global phenomenon. You would think that a product which has experience 40% annual growth since the beginning of the decade should get some one's attention. Maybe when JK Rowling allows Harry Potter to be done as a graphic novel you will see a reaction. Until then libraries will reap the benefits as the primary source of exposure for graphic novels.
    The conclusions here surprise me, but only slightly. Have you all had better luck in bookstores or libraries? There are times I've had great luck finding trades in libraries, and times I've had no luck at all, and ditto for bookstores; most of the time, I've found best results near big cities.

    Regardless, it's nice to see "the graphic novel craze" getting some press.

    Review: Nightwing: Brothers in Blood trade paperback (DC Comics)

    Sunday, July 01, 2007

    I've said before that Devin Grayson's Nightwing was not my favorite. If Grayson had a somewhat unique take on Nightwing, however, then Bruce Jones', collected in Nightwing: Brothers in Blood, was just plain unworkable. Jones' take involves at one point Jason Todd being mutated into a tentacled monster, which is ill-advised but perhaps forgivable. Our first introduction to Dick Grayson in Jones' trade, however, finds Dick in bed with a woman who's last name he doesn't even know, and over the course of the trade this once-proud Bludhaven police officer becomes a male model and makes a joke where he parodies Native Americans. Devin Grayson wrote a Nightwing who was whiny but believable; Bruce Jones writes a flippant, somewhat sleazy Nightwing you might not even want to know.

    It's not a stretch for Jones to portray Nightwing in something of a post-Crisis existential depression (see our review of Nightwing: Mobbed Up), nor is it out-of-character to see Nightwing as a ladies man (witness Nightwing/Huntress), but, to the latter, at least Nightwing knew Huntress fairly well, and to the former, at least we knew where Nightwing was coming from in Mobbed Up. Brothers in Blood finds a self-loathing Nightwing bumming around in a disappointingly non-descript New York City, with no explanation to speak of. This is certainly One Year Later used badly, after Superman: Up, Up, and Away and Batman: Face the Face did it so well; here, the lack of explanation doesn't make us want to follow Nightwing further, but rather to not follow him at all.

    I did like the idea of Nightwing as a fugitive from the police (though done to death, perhaps, in Batman: War Crimes (see our review), but Jones' method of getting there--an ultra-violent Jason Todd, played off two somewhat generic gangsters--left much to be desired. This trade is described on the back as "hard-boiled crime," but in comparison to Mobbed Up or Gotham Central, the villains here seem to be played more for laughs than for noir. Jones does make the wise choice of casting Nightwing's love interest, Cheyenne, as red-haired, subtly suggesting Nightwing's broken romance with Barbara Gordon. With this, however, Jones fights an uphill battle; after Devin Grayson's Romeo and Juliet portrayal of Nightwing and Oracle, it'd be hard for any writer to write him with someone else.

    [Contains full covers (including the fairly striking cover to #124).]

    Given how Bruce Jones' run on Nightwing was almost unanimously panned over the Internet, it was hard to believe I was going to read it and find I actually enjoyed it, and the outcome was that I did not. Add this to the litany of voices that says you can probably just skip it, and pick up with the collection of Marv Wolfman's new Nightwing run, Love and War, coming soon. Two hits so far with One Year Later, Superman: Up, Up, and Away and Batman: Face the Face, and now here's a miss; we'll see what Outsider: The Good Fight has in store. Thanks for reading along!