Friday Night Fights - Panic in the Sky!

Friday, August 31, 2007

In honor of our Top Ten Superman Trade Paperbacks list,
it's danger from above!

It slices! It dices! It even makes things to Bahlactus!

Top Ten Superman Trade Paperbacks

DC's top essential trade paperbacks list got us thinking, and so begins a semi-regular, once-in-a-while series where Collected Editions recommends the top trade paperbacks for a given character. Our goal will be to shirk the obvious suggestions when possible (not Batman: Year One, for instance), while at the same time reflecting Collected Edition's love of mainstream, in-continuity, collects-the-monthly-issues trades. Without further ado, here's Collected Editions Top Ten Superman Trade Paperbacks list:

* Superman: Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite
A classic modern Superman storyline, and one of my favorites. I don't spoil anything by revealing that this is the trade where Clark Kent proposes to Lois Lane; additionally, the post-Crisis uber-businessman Lex Luthor is at his evil best here, as is the main villain behind all the trouble.

* Superman: Endgame
The early 2000s Superman team, including Jeph Loeb and Joe Kelly, started to falter toward the end of their run, but this first major storyline was when they were at their absolute best. On New Year's Eve 2000, a Brainiac Y2K virus takes over Metropolis. Plenty of great action, and a startling sacrifice by Luthor ends the trade well.

* Superman: They Saved Luthor's Brain
Not to weigh this list too heavily toward late 1980s-early 1990s Superman stories, but this trade collects a variety of Superman/Lex Luthor battles, leading up to Luthor's apparent death and the rise of his mysterious son. These are solid Superman/Luthor stories, at times delightfully weird, and with plenty of intrigue and surprises along the way.

* The Death of Superman trilogy
The death and return of Superman are on just about everyone's list by now, but I think they're worth it. The stories benefit greatly from the fact that each is better than the last; whereas The Death of Superman is mostly all-out fighting, World Without a Superman has plenty of heart and The Return of Superman is a great mystery story.

* Superman: Birthright
Say what you want about the confusing multiple origins of Superman, Birthright remains an interesting, imminently readable Superman tale. Writer Mark Waid updates Superman's origins for the twenty-first century, and the choices he makes--from Clark's vegetarianism to his ability to see the aura of living things--are well worth pondering.

* Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
Alan Moore's tale of the twilight days of the pre-Crisis Superman remains a classic. Everyone who's anyone, hero or villain-wise, appears in this story, with it's sad but hopeful ending.

* Superman/Batman: World's Finest
This remains one of the best Superman/Batman team-ups out there, taking a Jetsons Meet the Flintstones approach where the various supporting characters (Lois and Alfred, Joker and Lex Luthor, along with Superman and Batman) trade cities and team up. Steve Rude's art gives this modern story a classic feel.

* Superman: Panic in the Sky
This Superman space-opera guest stars nearly every DC Universe hero from the time. The trade ties together a bunch of dangling plotlines from the early-1990s, but should be accessible to new readers. Not only is there a lot of great action and alien warfare, but this story served as something of a post-Crisis transition from Superman the "new" hero to leader of the JLA. Highly recommended.

* Superman: Time and Time Again
A great time-travel tale set just after Clark reveals his secret identity to Lois Lane. Not only does Superman fight Nazis and dinosaurs, but he also meets three different eras of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The trade includes a couple of issues where Superman works with Waverider and the Linear Men, tying in to 52 and what have you.

* Superman: Speeding Bullets
This is a fun Elseworlds tale that I was recently reminded of. Baby Kal-El crash lands in Gotham City and is named Bruce by his adoptive parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. When the Waynes are murdered, Bruce vows to avenge them with the help of his super-powers, taking on the persona of a bat ... A nice variation on the Superman and Batman mythos, with a good surprise at the end.

* What's your favorite Superman trade paperback?

Review: Superman: Camelot Falls Vol. 1 hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just a brief review of Superman: Camelot Falls Vol. 1 today. Kurt Busiek continues to do a yeoman's job on Superman. His Superman is less like the early 2000's Jeph Loeb's incarnation than an offshoot of Roger Stern's, giving Clark a more every-man persona, and Carlos Pacheco's art offers greater realism than Ed McGuinness--I'm a fan of that previous Superman era, but many were not, and it's interesting to note the direction that DC ultimately took. Busiek offers some great Superman bits--the return of Bruno Mannheim had this long-time Super-fan all a-twitter, and Clark's "Super-reading" on the plane was ingenious; so far, Busiek's portraying Superman's super-intelligence very well. And again Busiek gets points for writing a Lois Lane who's both supportive and independent without seeming a shrew (even if she's the one character Pacheco draws as completely unrecognizable).

Camelot Falls falls, however, in that it's the first volume in a two-volume work, and the climax of part one really isn't much to speak of. In essence, Camelot Falls probably shouldn't have been published until volume two was ready, or else volume one probably shouldn't have come out in hardcover--it just doesn't feel like it can support the format. As a collection of monthly Superman issues, what's found in Camelot Falls is great. But the jump from Superman fighting the Bizarro-esque Subjekt-13 to Arion's interruption is quite jarring, and the final two issues of the hardcover have Superman simply listening to Arion's story--there's action here, but the conclusion just feels flat. I'm also fairly concerned about Busiek setting Superman up with a challenge where Superman's solution is to "do nothing" or worry about his influence on humanity--these are some of the same kinds of "wishy-washy" storylines Superman faced pre-Infinite Crisis, and I'd be more concerned if it weren't for Busiek's great track record so far.

[Contains full covers, sketchbook pages. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Camelot Falls just didn't turn out to be enough of a story, so Captain Atom: Armageddon wins again! But look out, because as soon as we find a good solid DCU story, Armageddon's going to be out of there!]

More reviews on the way!

13 on 52: Week Eleven

Wednesday, August 29, 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 Eleven: Love Batwoman's color scheme; love Whisper's return more. What's with Ralph's reappearing beard?

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

Review: Superman: Back in Action trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Superman: Back in Action is a lot of fun, and has some interesting qualities as a Superman story; we'll get to those in a minute. But what's also interesting are the back-up reprints of some classic Superman team-ups, and moreso, writer Kurt Busiek's note that DC faced a dilemma when they got ready to collect the "Back in Action" story because it was only three issues long. There's no real news here--we know that DC's looking to collect most everything they put out these days, and that most stories are written with a trade collection in mind--but it's pretty unique to hear a writer admit it! This might be a bigger deal if Back in Action weren't so good--it is, and good enough to warrent the near-$4.99-per issue price tag if you don't count the DC Comics Presents reprints--but I'd say overall this "collect a short storyline with a couple of old issues" solution likely has a very short shelf-life. I do like the reprint collections, like Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse, but not the Back in Action solution.

That said, Kurt Busiek continues to write a distinctly appealing Superman. Gone are the angsty aspects of the character, without making Superman seem simple--he still worries about the world having moved on without him after One Year Later, but without the whininess that's followed the character of late. Superman's leadership is on display here--likely on purpose--and the way he leads a team of second-tier heroes to victory goes to the root of what makes Superman great. Busiek creates a new villain here, the Auctioneer, who is ostentatious without being silly; even Lois, though she only plays a small role in this storyline, is supporting without seeming stand-offish nor submissive. Busiek's found a great balance here, and Pete Woods' adds just the right combination of art that's realistic with a hint of superheroic animation.

Back in Action is almost a DCU storyline, with appearances by Firestorm, the Teen Titans, Nightwing, Aquaman, Robin's the Veteran, members of the Power Company, and more. Busiek makes the team that aligns with Superman almost seem like a junior Justice League, and they're a joy to watch. Skyrocket and Aquaman, of course, are Busiek's own creations, and being on an Aquaman kick as is, I especially liked the interaction between Superman and Aquaman. Firestorm plays a good role here too, as does Live Wire--that Busiek shows a willingness to play with creations from other Superman runs portends good things for the future.

I'm very eager now to see how Busiek's writing holds up in a major Superman story, like Camelot Falls; I liked Back in Action and I'm eager for more.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Captain Atom: Armageddon's action and romance beats the super-short Back in Action, but if Camelot Falls is this good, Captain Atom better watch out!]

Thanks for reading!

Friday Night Fights - From Krypton to Eternia!

Friday, August 24, 2007

By the power of ... Krypton?

OK, so no actual punching ... but it's such a great issue!

(Even Hordak bows to the power of Bahlactus!)

DC Comic's 30 Essential Graphic Novels

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Graphic Novel Archive has let us know that DC Comics posted a list of its top trade paperbacks on the DC website - DC Comics' 30 Essential Graphic Novels.

UPDATE: DC Comics updated this list with a new Essential Graphic Novels catalog in 2013. See their new list of 25 Essential Graphic Novels at the link.

The list is as follows:

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
V For Vendetta
The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
The Sandman: Endless Nights
Fables Vol 1: Legends In Exile
Superman For All Seasons
Superman: Birthright
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Batman: The Long Halloween
Batman: Dark Victory
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Batman: Year One
Batman: Hush Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
Kingdom Come
Identity Crisis
JLA Vol. 1: New World Order
Green Lantern: Rebirth
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back On The Street
The Quitter
Hellblazer: Original Sins
Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned
Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne
Sword Of The Dark Ones
Ex Machina Vol. 1: The First Hundred Days

Some observations:

* DC's tried to go across their imprints here; we've got representation from Vertigo, DC, and CMX. Wildstorm ends up the big loser with just the Ex Machina trade. It's highly surprising that The Authority didn't make this list.

* Looks like DC went for the cheap with this list -- Absolute Sandman is largely a better introduction to Sandman than just the paperback volume 1; ditto on Crisis on Infinite Earths.

* Endless Nights is something of a random choice; a good boook, but then there'd be room on the list for The Authority. Endless Nights does, however, contain a summary of all the other Sandman trades.

* As if Superman's deceptively simple origin wasn't convoluted enough, DC's three Superman trades here offer three different takes on the Man of Steel.

* There's a time lag to this list -- strange that the super-popular All-Star Superman isn't here instead of Superman/Batman; ditto Identity Crisis over Infinite Crisis (fears of being too continuity-heavy, perhaps) and JLA: New World Order over Justice League of America: The Tornado's Path (as if Meltzer's Justice League doesn't feel like the Big Seven to DC, either). Looks like nothing on this list newer than the past year or so.

* Green Lantern: Rebirth was a great story, but including Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern on this list instead of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman is a controversial choice. I'd imagine this would have been a good time to plug Jodi Picoult's Wonder Woman trade. I'm curious how close Kevin Smith's Green Arrow was to making this list, too.

* That The Dark Knight Strikes Again made this list is a travesty. While Dark Knight Returns takes its rightful place, no way does Dark Knight Strikes Again deserve to be on this list. Note that the summary text for Strikes Again, even, is a description of Fables, as if no one could stomach explaining what Strikes Again is about.

* Stories we'd put on this list? Flash: The Return of Barry Allen, maybe. The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is another, maybe Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga. The Death of Superman? What do you think?

Anyway, it's been on my mind lately to post my own top ten list of trade paperbacks, maybe separated by character. I'll think on it and follow up later.

(UPDATE: Don't miss our own list of the top trade paperbacks for: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, the Justice League, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and DC's best books starring female heroes.)

Thanks for reading!

Review: Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven trade paperback (DC Comics)

Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti may have written Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven, but signs of creator Grant Morrison (credited in Brave New World) are clearly apparent. To wit, if you're going to enjoy The Battle for Bludhaven, swiftly resign yourself to accepting a gigantic slew of characters popping out of nowhere; sweeping battles fought over esoteric scientific concepts; and little, if any, final wrap-up. Don't get me wrong, Battle for Bludhaven is fairly entertaining, with some interesting political commentary thrown into the mix, but it's clearly just the first part in an ongoing DC Universe story and makes no bones about being so.

The new characters introduced in Battle for Bludhaven are interesting, though it would be hard to feel much for them if we didn't already know that most will reappear in Countdown or Gray and Palmiotti's Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters series. The SHADE organization has already been seen in Seven Soldiers, but it's hard to say who's behind the group, or where they fit in what's already a pretty clearly established DC organizational hierarchy. Ditto for the new Atomic Knights, who seem pretty indistinguishable from one another except for leader Gardner Graye, the original Atomic Knight. I appreciate that the writers are creating new heroes with established names, but sometimes it just gets confusing--how the new Phantom Lady, with the last name of Knight, is related to the old Sandra Knight is never quite explained.

Battle for Bludhaven feels like a collection of DC Universe subplots, none strong enough to make their own series alone, brought together in one miniseries. I like the new Firebrand, though ultimately his role in the story only seems to ready him for the Uncle Sam miniseries. Similarly, those following Captain Atom here from Armageddon will be disappointed by the lack of development for the character, as the story seems built just to put him in a distinctive set of armor--a great scene, to be sure, but completely devoid of explanation. Additionally, the Teen Titans and Green Lantern act as generic stand-ins for any available hero--Hal Jordan's sudden appearance seems meant only for him to finally address wrongs done by Major Force. All of these are interesting, but only contribute to the story's hodge-podge feel.

What Battle for Bludhaven does establish is a increased sense of politicized heroes in the DCU. We know from other One Year Later titles that heroes are now separated by national lines, and Battle for Bludhaven begins to further separate the heroes into those government- and non-government sanctioned. The writers have Firebrand raise a good point that vigilante Robin's concerns about going against the government are hypocritical, and the questions remain: in the mainstream DCU, would Superman, Batman, and the rest violate direct government orders? Elseworlds say yes, but here it's not so clear. Obviously these are topical issues, and these questions are bright spots in the chaos of this miniseries.

So would I recommend Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven? Well, if you're a Captain Atom or Armageddon 2001 fan, this book is a can't miss--there's about four pages here worth the price of admission alone. And for DCU completists, the issues raised here are bound to come up again. Otherwise, I'd say wait to read this one until you have the Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters trade paperback in hand, too--my guess is that it's a much more satisfying reading experience to have the two together.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Bludhaven's chaos can't beat Captain Atom: Armageddon characterization. Armageddon remains the winner!]

Up next: Superman!

13 on 52: Week Ten

Wednesday, August 22, 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 Ten: Clark was good, but Lois's reaction's better. Andrea makes Adam more interesting. Better issue.

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

DC Comics November 2007 Soliciations

Monday, August 20, 2007

Newsarama's got DC's November solicitations up at their website. Not much new on the collections front (maybe we'll see more 2008 next month), though a couple of interesting nuggets.

* We get the first Tales of the Multiverse here with Batman: Vampire. What other Tales might we expect? Me, I always liked the ones where they switched the characters origins, like Superman raised by the Waynes or Batman getting a Green Lantern ring.

* Batman/Superman: Saga of the Super Sons has a story from the late, lamented Elseworlds 80-Page Giant.

* Batman: The Man Who Laughs hardcover collects this Ed Brubaker graphic novel, largely we're guessing to capitalize on buzz for The Dark Knight movie. The three-part "Made of Wood" story is by Brubaker with Patrick Zircher.

* Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes - DC's shooting for the stars with a hardcover collection of this series, though Karl Kesel and the Terry and Rachel Dodson have a lot of pull. We'll have to see if this one gets a volume two.

That's all for now. Remember, if you'd like to guest-write a column for Collected Editions, send an email to the address at right. Later!

Review: Captain Atom: Armageddon trade paperback (DC Comics/Wildstorm)

Captain Atom: Armageddon is a fantastic story, and speaks well for the Wildstorm titles overall. As with some previous DC/Wildstorm crossovers, this had the potential to be just a long heroes-fight-and-then-team-up story; instead, it's gripping, thoughtful, and remarkably true to Captain Atom's character, at least. As the Wildstorm universe crashes around it, Armaggedon takes a moment to ask what you trust more--technology, or your senses--and it's a fascinating question that pervades throughout.

I appreciated how faithful writer Will Pfeifer was both to Captain Atom and to the Wildstorm characters. Atom's origin plays a large role in the story, with his "sitting on top of a bomb" carried through the series as a metaphor for the lack of control Atom has over his life. Even Atom's failed marriage to Plastique gets a mention (though not, unfortunately, Extreme Justice). Majestic and the Wildcats are explained more to new readers than the Authority (perhaps given the Authority's overall popularity), but as an Ellis/Millar Authority fan, seeing them pop out of Doors again was a thrill.

What I liked in Armageddon was how ethically diverse Pfeifer showed the Wildstorm universe to be--from the everyman perspective of Grifter and the Wildcats to the ruling power of the Authority, with Majestic trying to find a moral ground in the center. There's a danger here, as with DC/Marvel team-ups, to portray the DC Universe as "happy" and the Wildstorm universe as "dark"--there's some of that here, but Pfeifer also shows how the heroes of the Wildstorm universe attempt to strive under difficult circumstances. The Engineer's mixed feelings about being instructed to kill Captain Atom, and especially Majestic and Jack Hawksmoor's ruminations about the end of the universe, show "shades" to the Wildstorm universe that may not always be so apparent when reading individual titles.

One of the main differences between the DC and Wildstorm universes, Pfeifer posits, is the Wildstorm characters' reliance on technology instead of know-how. Everyone consults a computer here, and most of them turn out wrong; when Atom implores the Engineer to trust her heart over her technology, she goes with the technology. There are larger world-bending questions here--How do we know what we know? How can we be sure we really know anything at all?--and I applaud Pfeifer for tackling them. Armageddon becomes more than a simple crossover--with romance, mystery, and moral ponderings, it's a weighty and satisfying read.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Captain Atom: Armageddon remains consistantly enjoyable throughout, trumping The All New Atom!]

More Captain Atom goodness coming up with Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven. Stick around!

DC Comics 2008 Trade Paperback Speculations List

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hard to believe that here we are in August, and it's already time for Collected Editions' 2008 Trade Paperback Speculations list. It seems trades are being announced earlier and earlier these days, and as of Monday, DC's solicitations for November may very well contain trade paperbacks for January! It seems it's become a lot easier to predict upcoming trades since the graphic novel boom--we know we'll see collected editions of Teen Titans, Birds of Prey, Blue Beetle, the new Booster Gold series and the like, but here's a handful that bear special mention.

Countdown - Everyone knows the name of DC's game these days is Countdown, and now that all the 52 trades have been solicited, Countdown trades are just around the corner, as early as January--no way will DC wait to collect Countdown like they did with 52. A collection of thirteen issues (#51-39) wouldn't be unheard of, or even smaller, eight-issue trades. Also undoubtedly getting collections will be all the various Countdown miniseries, popping up throughout 2008.

Superman: Last Son - Now that Geoff Johns and Richard Donner's "Last Son" storyline has finally concluded, look for it to receive the hardcover treatment in 2008. Since it's technically just four issues (though some are oversized), it's up in the air whether their "Bizarro World" story will appear in the same book, or a separate one; capitalism would suggest "separate." Kurt Busiek's Action Comics Countdown tie-in will likely appear elsewhere, along with his Superman Countdown issue and the Action Comics #850 anniversary issue.

Justice League of America/Justice Society of America: The Lightning Saga - Expect hardcover treatment for this JLA/JSA crossover. Justice League #7 is a stand-alone issue that wasn't part of the first Justice League hardcover, and could make it's way here; similarly, including Justice League #11 and #12 here would finish out Brad Meltzer's Justice League run.

Flash: The Fast Life - Expect an early trade of Mark Waid's new run on The Flash. This'll undoubtedly contain All-Flash #1, as well as the first couple of issues of the Flash relaunch.

Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps - The most recent Green Lantern hardcover ended just before the "Sinestro Corps" storyline begins, and the next will likely be a hardcover of this story. This would be a big trade, encompassing both the Sinestro Corps specials and issues of Green Lantern Corps; it's possible DC may do a volume 1/volume 2 with this.

Absolute All-Star Superman - I've been predicting this for a long time, and I restate it here: expect a second All-Star Superman hardcover, and then an Absolute edition of all twelve issues. No question we'll see this in late 2008 or early 2009.

Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album - I'd bet we'll see all three Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding specials collected in one volume in 2008. There's also the Green Arrow: Year One and Black Canary miniseries; our budgets could hope, perhaps, that these will be collected together, but they'll probably come out separately.

Batman: Head of the Demon - The recent Batman and Son hardcover collects up to issue #666 of Grant Morrison's run on Batman; expect another hardcover in 2008 collecting the new "Head of the Demon" storyline. Hopefully the volume will collect some of the disparate parts like the short story from the upcoming Robin Annual. Morrison has three issues between the end of Batman and Son and the beginning of "Head of the Demon," and we'll cross our fingers that DC doesn't forget about these.

Outsiders: CheckOut - After Pay As You Go, Outsiders has four more issues until the series ends, three of which are part of a crossover with Checkmate. This lines up with the end of the most recent Checkmate trade, too, so expect to see this crossover collected, possibly with Outsiders #50, too. After that will certainly come a trade of the Outsiders: Five of a Kind event before the new Batman and the Outsiders series.

That's a start, and we'll keep referencing this list as the year goes on. Tune back in on Monday to see if any of these get a mention in the new solicitations. Which forthcoming trade are you most hoping for? Expecting any that aren't on this list?

Friday Night Fights - Flash versus Flash!

Friday, August 17, 2007

In tribute ...

Just could not find a larger image of this cover, but it's Mike Wieringo's work ... he'll be missed.

(And forget not he who brings us together ... let us all say, "Bahlactus!")

It's coming ... the 2008 Trade Paperback Speculations list

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Difficult to believe, but with DC Comic's November solicitations coming out on Monday, including potential trade paperback solicitations for January ... it's time for the Collected Editions 2008 Trade Paperback Speculations list! Tune in Saturday as we list some of the trade paperbacks we expect in 2008, and take your guesses as well. See you then!

13 on 52: Week Nine

Wednesday, August 15, 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 Nine: Pacing changes; first extended fight scene. Not my favorite, except Nguyen on inks.

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

Announcing ... the Trade Paperback Slugfest!

Announcing ... the Trade Paperback Slugfest!

Who? What? Where? Why? Well, why not? One day amidst the stacks of trade paperbacks, it hit me--what was the best trade paperback I've read so far this year? Last year? Collected Editions has no way really to keep track of the best of the best ... until now.

It's the Trade Paperback Slugfest, and it's simple. Now, at the end of every trade paperback review (or when the mood strikes us), you'll see a Slugfest--a quick evaluation of whether this trade paperback is better than the last one we read. If the last trade paperback is better than the current one, it moves on to the next round; if the current one is better, we'll have a new winner!

Every once in a while we'll check in on the statistics; maybe the future will hold a bracket system? The Trade Paperback Slugfest -- just another way Collected Editions makes your wait for trade a little easier!

Review: All-New Atom: My Life in Miniature

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

A pretty quick review today of All New Atom: My Life in Miniature, the first volume of Gail Simone's new Atom series. Simone nicely hews close to the basic concept of the Atom -- guy shrinks down and finds secret worlds hidden inside our own -- while imbuing the series with a fresh-feeling sense of science and whimsy. The new Atom, Ryan Choi, is a gifted young professor backed up by a team of kooky scientists; Choi idolizes the previous Atom Ray Palmer, such that his predecessor inhabits these pages almost as much as Aquaman does in Sword of Atlantis. Simone also fills each page with pop-up-video-esque quotes from scientists both real and DCU-imagined, differentiating the series even further from your average superhero fare.

Like the first volume of the new Blue Beetle series (see our review), however, somewhere toward the end it kind of falls apart. The biggest difficulty is that comics legend John Byrne leaves after the third issue, and Eddy Barrow's art just doesn't have the same fluidity that sells the Atom concept. Second, while I'm glad to see the Brave New World story included here, it feels slightly shoehorned in, making sense to the plot only in retrospect--and this confusion bleeds over to include a scene where a whole bevy of DC villains collide over Ivy Town for reasons never fully explained. And while I like the quotes that Simone sprinkles throughout the story, they just get annoying amidst all the chaos at the end.

Also like Blue Beetle, however, Atom is engaging enough for a second chance, and I'll be picking up Future/Past when it comes out in December. We'll see if that one holds up any better.

[Contains full covers]

Moving now to Captain Atom: Armageddon, Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven, and then maybe some Superman. Excelsior!

Friday Night Fights - More Main Man Mayhem!

Friday, August 10, 2007

TONIGHT -- It's the Main Man versus the ... well, Despero!

And Lobo wins again!

Who's the baddest Bastich around? Lobo! And when the Main Man places a bet, he bets on ... Bahlactus!

* yes, I know it's still not in English ... still don't ask ...

Review: Flash: The Fastest Man Alive: Lightning in a Bottle trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive - Lightning in a Bottle is, to be blunt, a failure of writing and art. What's worse, however, is that the two don't fail at the same time--there are moments where Danny Bilson and Paul Demeo's story shows some promise, just as the art offers a bright spot--Karl Kerschl--against Ken Lashley's just-wrong-for-this series illustrations. The result is a story that probably had some potential in its inception, but fails to distinguish itself in the production.

One Year Later, Bart Allen works at Keystone Motors, and Jay Garrick is the Flash. An accident reveals that Bart still carries the Speed Force inside of him, but he's hesitant to use it. A series of sabotage attacks forces Bart to wear Barry Allen's old Flash uniform, the only thing that can contain the Speed Force, in order to protect his friends, including STAR Labs scientist Dr. Valerie Perez. Bart ultimately must become the Flash in order to stop the vigilante violence of his friend Griff, facing his fear in the process.

This new Flash series had a considerably high reputation to live up to. Mark Waid defined the Flash for an era, creating the Speed Force that's become a mainstay of DC Comics lore. Bilson and Demeo set out with good intentions, revising Bart Allen's origin such that he receives his powers accidentally, much the same way as the Flashes before him. This accident, however, never really takes place (Bart reveals his powers when Griff is caught in an accident).

Similarly, Bart's internalizing of the Speed Force is rife with potential--especially when Bart can benefit from the wisdom of Flashes past--but why Bart's so hesitant to use the Speed Force is never fully explained. Supposedly the Speed Force is eating Bart alive, but we never see any evidence of this, and it's not clear why Bart's so afraid of the super-bursts of speed that he receives. As with Firestorm, the lacking comics pseudo-science here is just boring, especially after Mark Waid's efforts.

I did appreciate Bilson and Demeo's attempt to keep Bart in Keystone's motor city, even going so far as to use the detectives Chyre and Morillo that Geoff Johns created. But whereas Johns' Flash run felt fully rooted in union politics, Bilson and Demeo's intial bad guy is a stereotypical disgruntled employee. Griffen, Bart's friend-turned-enemy, needs very much to be sympathetic--but as was the problem with Nightwing: Brothers in Blood, the character is so full of slang and juvenile humor that he comes off as a caricature. Valerie Perez, the daughter of a former Flash villain, is a bright spot, offering ties to Bart's Kid Flash days; here, however, as well as in other instances, it seems the writers don't quite understand Bart's Impulse to Kid Flash timeline, and these shoddy details harm the book overall.

In comparison to Waid and Johns' Flash runs, Fastest Man Alive just doesn't reflect the same fervor. Ken Lashley has plenty of comic book experience, but his art seems flat compared to past Flash artists Scott Kolins, Mike Wieringo, Howard Porter or even this trade's fill-in artist Karl Kerschl, whose more cartoony style offers a much better fit. I was wary of Kerschl when he first did guest-spots in Superman, but the early boxiness of his work has given way to a smoothness that works great in titles like Teen Titans.

It's hard to review Lightning in a Bottle without casting an eye toward what we know is to come in the next trade. It's actually possible to believe the thirteen issues of this Flash series were planned, given some of the doom and gloom prophecies found in this trade--though even those feel largely un-Flash-like coming from the upbeat Wally West and Barry Allen. Fastest Man Alive just never offers the zip of its predecessors, though again the concept seems sound--it's just too bad Bart Allen had to pay for other people's difficulties.

[Contains full covers.]

We're finding ourselves in a "new character" subsection of One Year Later. Coming up next ... the All-New Atom! Come join!

13 on 52: Week Eight

Wednesday, August 08, 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 Eight: Supernova's debut anti-climactic. Natasha plot is Luthor at his best; Rucka writing it?

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

Trade Perspectives: DC Comics Parties Like It's ... 1994?

Monday, August 06, 2007

[Contains spoilers for Flash #13]

Imagine this: it's a new era for DC Comics. A big event has just ended, DC continuity has been revamped, and in its wake, DC's launched a bevy of new series featuring new characters and takes on old franchises.

Except the year isn't 2007 ... it's 1994.

Yes, in the wake of the universe-shaking Zero Hour, DC Comics launched a brand new continuity, that involved among other things the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents going free and Hawkman becoming a Hawk-God-Avatar-thing. OK, it wasn't a drastically new continuity. But what it did involve was 1994's version of One Year Later, "Zero Month," which launched Fate, Manhunter, Primal Force, and Starman, joining other new series like Anima and Damage.

These titles largely failed, short of Starman. Fate and Manhunter in particular were supernatural series with edgy bents. Each was a "legacy" title, taking their names from former series, but with little ties to their predecessors. The protagonists were anti- or reluctant heroes. They never caught on possibly because of their sharp deviance from traditional DC Comics titles, and their lack of tie with the mainstream DC Universe. The initial shine bestowed on them by Zero Hour faded within a few years.

In comparison, the Infinite Crisis spin-off titles, including Blue Beetle, Aquaman, Firestorm, Flash, and All-New Atom seem to benefit from the shortfalls of these previous series. All are legacy titles, and all are tied very strongly to the heroes that came before. Each offers standard superhero fare, and all titles had elements featured in Infinite Crisis, to the extent that each title begins with a ready-made place in the DCU. It would seem the One Year Later titles would be set to succeed where the Zero Month titles failed.

Except, I do tend to wonder if the sins of the past aren't upon us again. Blue Beetle is very popular, but did we really need another Blue Beetle series, or could the DCU have survived without it? I can't stop raving about Aquaman, but didn't the era of Kyle Rayner and Connor Hawke teach us what the fans really want is the original heroes returned to greatness? Doesn't the death of Bart Allen smack of mid-1990s event-ery?

There's a lot I like about DC's New Earth--the returned comraderie between the Justice League is just one of them. But I also wonder about the stable foundation of the rest of the DCU--are these new series built to last, or just new series? By the time Final Crisis rolls around, I wonder which of the series sparked by Infinite Crisis will still be standing.

Collected Edition's One Year Later reviews continue this week. Thanks for reading!

PS If you haven't checked out the fantasic discussion that's evolved after the last Trade Perspective post on Dan Didio's tenure at DC and the role of violence in comics, you're missing some fantastic perspectives from our Collected Editions readers. Check it out!

Review: Blue Beetle: Shellshocked

Saturday, August 04, 2007

With Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, we're continuing now what's turning out to be a series-within-a-series in our examination of the One Year Later trade paperbacks--that is, an examination of the trades of the new series that came out of One Year Later--Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, Firestorm: The Nuclear Man*, Blue Beetle, and next up, Flash: The Fastest Man Alive. The early three, as I've mentioned, also have the distinction of being series that I never much read before Infinite Crisis, and there's some larger issues embedded in this that I'll discuss in a few days (check out that discussion here).

In that comparison to the last few trades reviewed, I enjoyed Blue Beetle more than Firestorm, though still not as much as Aquaman. Beetle starts very strong, with some of the most engaging sequences even before Jaime Reyes becomes Blue Beetle, and continues with a fantastic take on the One Year Later concept. It's only toward the end of the trade where Beetle begins to sink into a combination of some fairly standard gang warefare cliches and introduces a whole band of one-note super-powered "extras," accompanied by a change in artwork, where Beetle begins to lose its shine.

The best thing about Blue Beetle is hero Jaime Reyes and his supporting cast. Like the new Aquaman, Jaime is a reluctant hero, but needs very little pushing to be convinced to save the day. His friends Paco and Brenda seem remarkably real, superceeding even Chuck Dixon's initial supporting cast for Robin. I also very much enjoyed Jaime's relationship with his family, and especially the portrayl of their conflicts after One Year Later--also seemingly very realistic. Jaime's immediate decision to tell his family about the Beetle scarab adds a great dynamic to the series.

Beetle also makes good use of the DC Universe at large. We see Guy Gardner, sure to appear again, and also Oracle and Black Canary. Ted Kord gets an early mention, as does Dan Garrett, and it's good to see that the Beetle legacy will be an important part of this series. The Phantom Stranger shows up, investigating the potential mystical nature of the Beetle scarab; in this way, Blue Beetle reminded me somewhat of the Damage series, where each plotline searches out a possible origin for the character. Jaime's interactions with each of these characters offers a unique and refreshing look at the DCU.

Though I found the end of Blue Beetle somewhat generic, I liked the trade as a whole, certainly enough to pick up the next one. That said, I had a sense of deja vu today reading Blue Beetle, and Firestorm before that. To anyone else, does it feel like 1994 again? I'll elaborate--more on that coming soon.

[Contains full covers.]

Thanks for reading!

* Granted the latest Firestorm started before Infinite Crisis, but as the first trade wasn't until One Year Later, I'm lumping it in.

Friday Night Fights - World's Greatest Bastich!

Friday, August 03, 2007

TONIGHT -- It's the Main Man versus the Man's Man!

And Lobo wins!

Across the universe and around the world, always bet on ... Bahlactus!

* yes, I know it's not in English ... don't ask ...

Review: Firestorm: The Nuclear Man - Reborn

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It's as strange, frankly, to be writing a Firestorm review as it is to be writing an Aquaman review; how far we've come that even these "forgotten heroes" now have their own trade paperbacks. Whereas Sword of Atlantis, however, was an excellent, accesible One Year Later jumping on point for the series, Firestorm, The Nuclear Man: Reborn turned out much too convoluted to grab my attention. I can tell in dribs and drabs here what's changed for the character over the missing year, but I don't feel we get enough information about Firestorm to really engage new readers in the plot.

One Year Later, Firestorm is doing temporary work for Lexcorp, preventing a nuclear reaction. He and Firehawk, his new partner in the Firestorm matrix, are attacked by soldiers of The Pupil, a former student of previous Firestorm Martin Stein. Firestorm and Firehawk much each contend with their separate lives while tied together by the Firestorm matrix; they first fight Killer Frost and Mister Freeze, and later save Stein. Stein joins the Firestorm matrix again, fixing its anomolies.

Firestorm, frankly, seems like a concept in search of a plot. I like all the elements here--Jason Rusch and Lorraine Reilly are great characters, and it's an interesting concept that they're forced to stay together despite separate lives because of the Firestorm matrix; I also enjoyed the themes of government nuclear proliferation brought by Lorraine's new Senate work. The Firestorm matrix, however, seems to ultimately amount to a lot of comic book scientific nonsense--the matrix is failing for unknown reasons in order to keep Rusch and Reilly together, it falls apart exactly when the plot needs it to, and then it's mended at the end of the story by Stein's influence, without ever an explanation of why the matrix breaks or how it's fixed.

This all takes place around fairly generic super-hero fare--Firestorm and Firehawk stop a plot by Killer Frost that has no larger series implications, and The Pupil character is immediately forgettable. There's very little here with which the Firestorm series can distinguish itself. I appreciated the Spider-Man-esque difficulty that Rusch has in balancing his super-heroic and civilian lives, but his supporting cast just isn't that interesting--new readers aren't given much reason to like his girlfriend Gehanna, and Firestorm's conflict with his dad is never explained--we have no more reason to appreciate Rusch's anger for his father than we do understanding of why he's so surprised to see his mother at the end of the trade.

I think a new, young Firestorm absolutely has a place in the DC Universe, and I like Jason Rusch, but I don't think Firestorm took enough of an advantage of the One Year Later break. Never thought I'd be saying this, but Firestorm could take a tip from Aquaman to see how it's done.

[Contains full covers.]

Thanks for reading!

13 on 52: Week Seven

Wednesday, August 01, 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 Seven: Booster definitely running a scheme; great emotion with Ralph. Kane steals the show.

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