Still More DC Comics 2008 Trade Paperbacks - Starman! Countdown!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Couldn't hand off Collected Editions for November without just a few more trade paperback solicitations. And when we say few, we mean lots!

Projected for May, June, and July 2008 from DC Comics, it's Countdown to Final Crisis volumes one and two! Starman: The Complete Saga! Justice League International volume two! The Green Lantern: No Fear paperback! Check it out!

Green Lantern: No Fear paperback
Countdown to Final Crisis volume 1
Batman: Joker's Last Laugh (the Chuck Dixon crossover)
Black Adam: The Dark Age
Legion of Super-Heroes (50th Anniversary Edition) - a collection of issues from various eras
Vertigo: First Cut - another Vertigo sampler
Batman vs Two-Face
Justice volume 1 - paperback
Infinity Inc: Luthor's Monster
52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen
Checkmate: Fall of the Wall
Jack Kirby's OMAC hardcover
Booster Gold: 52 Pick-Up
Heroes (TV series) - paperback
Superman: The World of Krypton - the John Byrne miniseries
All-New Atom: The Search for Ray Palmer
Starman: The Complete Saga hardcover volume 1 - WOW!
Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul hardcover
Superman: Escape from Bizarro World paperback

Metamorpho: Year One
All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder hardcover
World's Finest (deluxe edition) - the Dave Gibbons miniseres; well worth it!
Green Lantern: Tales of the Sinestro Corps hardcover
Superman: Camelot Falls volume 1 paperback
Justice League of America: The Injustice League hardcover
Tangent Comics volume 3
The Joker: Greatest Stories Ever Told
Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War volume 2
Batman: Jekyll & Hyde - Paul Jenkins miniseries. Preparing for The Dark Knight returns, anyone?
Ex Machina (deluxe edition)
Shadowpact volume 3
Teen Titans: Titans of Tomorrow
Countdown Presents: Search for Ray Palmer

Countdown to Final Crisis volume 2
Justice League International volume 2
Diana Price: Wonder Woman volume 2
Batman: Going Sane - Legends of the Dark Knight #65-68 by J. M. Dematteis. Dark Knight, eh?
Countdown to Adventure
Authority: Prime
Countdown: Arena
Batman: Batman and Son paperback
The Flash: The Fast Life
Wonder Girl: Champion
Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes - the Geoff Johns Superman plotline
Trials of Shazam volume 2
Batman: Faces - Matt Wagner storyline

(For earlier DC Comics 2008 trade paperback solicitations, click here and here. And let me mention that there was one mini-series on this list to be collected, for which the first issue hasn't even come out, which I omitted because I like the writer a lot and felt this was something of a low blow. Though it's not as though anyone will be surprised to know this miniseries will eventually be collected -- have I taught you nothing? Let the speculation begin -- when I finally review the series, I'll name names).

Can you (complete Starman) even (complete Starman) believe it? Now what are you going to buy?

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Just a quick note -- nothing too scary! -- to mention again that we're doing something a little different for Collected Editions in the month of November.

Because of NaNoWriMo, I've enlisted some great guest bloggers who'll be popping up on Collected Editions in the next few weeks. And they've brought with them some great review treats -- no tricks! -- for the coming month: DC reviews, Marvel reviews, independent reviews, graphic novels, Elseworlds, and more!

There's all sorts of great stuff coming up on Collected Editions -- stay tuned!

13 on 52: Week Twenty

(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. 2.)

Thirteen words for Week Twenty: Later issues spending more time on one storyline. Little happens; slow issue overall.

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

Review: Hawkgirl: The Maw trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 29, 2007

If you enjoyed Hawkgirl: The Maw, would you email me letting me know what you liked about it, or leave a comment below? Regular readers know I ask openly and without judgement. And I ask because, to be frank, I just don't know what the creators could have been thinking and I'm eager for insights; I found very little here to like.

Hawkgirl ventures into the realm of the ridiculous nearly from page one, and the problem can be summed up in one word: nipples. I mean, more nipples than Batman and Robin here, people. Artist Howard Chaykin, a comics legend, never misses an opportunity the entire trade to let you know it's terribly, terribly cold for Hawkgirl there in St. Roch. The suggested nipples don't even go away when Chaykin has villains rip Hawgirl's shirt off to reveal an amazingly-detailed lacy bra, as if every superhero wears expensive lingerie underneath their super-suits.

The art in Hawkgirl here is so gratuitous as to lampoon itself. I'm neither against sex in comics, nor an artist drawing sexually-charged comics when it dovetails with the story. In Hawkgirl's case, however, it just seems out of place and silly, and makes the creative team seem silly, too. It's as if the team thinks that readers are more likely to pick up Hawkgirl if there's a suggestion of nudity in each issue; it'll be a great day when creators learn that comic books and softcore porn are two different things.

Arguably, if you don't look at the pictures, Hawkgirl isn't a badly written comic book. Walter Simonson, also a comics legend, writes a passable story that makes good use, at least, of already-established Hawkgirl characters. But there's an over-heavy use of narrative boxes here that often "tell" instead of "showing," and the monstrous villain of the piece is fairly generic; there's nothing here that screams "One Year Later" new direction, nor I think would necessarily entice a new reader to keep reading Hawkgirl. It's just kind of plain all around.

Frankly, I expected more from Walter Simonson and Howard Chaykin, each considered to be a comics legend in their own right. When creators are as well known in the comics industry as these two, my assumption is that they know how to make quality comics, but Hawkgirl just doesn't demonstrate that to me. Chaykin's art has a detailed, angular style that would otherwise be enjoyable, but the clunky fonts and narrative balloons here, as well as the ever-present pointing nipples, distract from what could have been.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: As if you even have to ask? Green Lantern: Wanted wins by a landslide.]

More reviews on the way!

Friday Night Fights: Boy Wonder!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Meanwhile, at stately Wayne manor ...

No, I'm just kidding! If you don't know why Batman is Master of Timing, you need to see what Bully says! And as for the Boy Wonder ...


(And see the gentleman who's always a master of timing ... Bahlactus!)

Review: Green Lantern: Wanted - Hal Jordan hardcover collection (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

If I haven't said it before, let me say I think Geoff Johns is doing some of the best work of his career with Green Lantern. Green Lantern: Wanted--Hal Jordan is a fantastic super-hero comic -- action-packed without being mindless, and continuity-relevant without being inaccessible. Moreover, it becomes all the more apparent here that Geoff Johns is re-creating the entire foundation of the Green Lantern Corps mythos, and doing so in a way that makes me very eager to see what's next.

The main story here, "Wanted," is fairly similar to that of the previous Green Lantern volume, Revenge of the Green Lanterns (read our review), and I tend to think Johns did this on purpose. Whereas Revenge and "Wanted" both deal with Green Lantern on a rescue mission, targeted by old foes, Revenge took place firmly in space with the Green Lantern Corps, and "Wanted" is an Earth-bound Air Force adventure with DCU cameos. Johns demonstrates here the same versatility with Green Lantern that he found with Hawkman, who might have an extra-dimensional adventure one issue and a city-bound story the next. The constant is Hal Jordan's overwhelmingly likable character and can-do superheroic attitude, making this an eminently readable story.

As with the best of Johns' Flash stories and Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman run, what impresses me in "Wanted" is just how much is going on at one time. At the end of one issue, Hal Jordan is being pursued by no less than the JLA, the Rocket Reds, Russian terrorists, two different bounty hunters, and more; there's also the Star Sapphire plot, the Sinestro Corps, and the Guardians capturing the Cyborg Superman. Johns' Green Lantern title has fantastic scope, and it's hard not to get excited about it.

The second story, "Mystery of the Star Sapphire," begins like a simple hero-versus-villain story, but by the end, the breadth of Geoff Johns' plans for Green Lantern are magnificently apparent. If I understand everything correctly, the Star Sapphires are apparently another emotional power battery like the Green Lantern and Sinestro Corp rings -- and there's at least four more other batteries out there. I don't know much about the history of the Guardians and the Zamarons, but I can tell Geoff Johns is playing fast and loose with continuity to put forth this whole color-power story -- and it works.

Just like explaining the Green Lanterns' yellow weakness with Parallax, Johns offers an alternate explanation for the Star Sapphires that just makes sense, and makes a good story as well. The Green Lantern Corps and their origin is one of the driving mythologies of the DC Universe, and Geoff Johns has taken it upon himself to redefine it. This is a gigantic, weighty task -- and I'm blown away at how well Johns begins it in this volume.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: We have a giant killer! Gotham Central: Unresolved Targets was great, but for pure super-heroics, Green Lantern: Wanted--Hal Jordan can't be beat. In brightest day, indeed!]

More reviews coming up. What would you like to see reviewed at Collected Editions?

Even more DC Comics 2008 trade paperback solicitations

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hey, everyone! Even more DC Comics trade paperback solicitations for 2008, and some of these are doozies! As follows:

* Supergirl and The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Quest for Cosmic Boy
Collects Tony Bedard's first story arc on the series, issues #32-36.

* Batman Lovers and Madmen
A Batman: Confidential collection by Heroes writer Michael Green.

* Superman/Batman: Torment
Collects Superman/Batman #37-42 by Alan Burnett. But what happened to Mark Verheiden's three part Metal Men story in issues #34-36? Hopefully we'll see this in a Metal Men trade.

* The Question: Poisoned Ground
The next collection of Dennis O'Neil's run on The Question.

* JLA Presents Aztek: The Ultimate Man
We've been saying it here at Collected Editions forever, and now here you go. A collected edition of Grant Morrison's Aztek: The Ultimate Man. Can JSA Presents Hourman by Tom Peyer be far behind?

* Captain Carrot and the Final Ark
Which is to say, a collected edition is right around the corner.

* Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come
Collecting the next Justice Society storyline after "Lightning Saga."

* Green Arrow: Year One
The Andy Diggle mini-series, in hardcover.

* Wildstorm: Armageddon
Because the universe will never be the same. We swear this time. Promise. (Though, after the great Captain Atom: Armageddon, I might just pick this up.)

So what (Aztek) will you be picking up (Aztek)? Drop a comment and let us know!

13 on 52: Week Nineteen

(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. 2.)

Thirteen words for Week Nineteen: Still don't get Lobo's transition. Did Skeets break time? Like Supernova as Kon-El.

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

Review: Ion: The Torchbearer trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 22, 2007

A short take on Ion: The Torchbearer today -- fitting, for what seems like an especially short trade. Don't get me wrong -- I actually like Kyle Rayner a lot, and I'm glad to see Ron Marz back writing the character. But Ion: The Torchbearer -- essentially, volume one of the two volume Ion series -- is exactly what's wrong with DC Comic's whole one volume/two volume trade scheme. (And I do think it's a scheme. Not like we haven't seen twelve-issue trade paperbacks before. This artificial splitting of mini-series into two trade volumes is obviously to make the same money twice.)

In combination with the second forthcoming volume of Ion, I'll give an early prediction that the Ion: Guardian of the Universe series is actually pretty good. Marz's Kyle Rayner is a fantastically down-to-earth Green Lantern, making the cosmic elements of the story more approachable; Marz also writes great scenes between Kyle and Hal Jordan, and underlies the story with a spooky sense of conspiracy. I was concerned that Marz's Green Lantern might be an ill-fit with that of Geoff Johns and Dave Gibbons, but Ion fits right in.

But by the time you get through the forgettable bounty hunters and the ghosts of Christmas past illusions, not much happens in these six issues. Kyle stays for the most part in one place (you'll understand after you read it), and the only really surprising part is a cameo by a mystery villain. Ion: The Torchbearer is decompression at it's worst, because it's decompression disguised as a foreward-moving plot, until you get to the end and find yourself basically back where you started. In conjunction with the other six issues of Ion, maybe this would have been all right. On its own, it feels like a fake-out.

[Contains full covers, text pages. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Gotham Central still packed more power than Ion. We may have to give Unresolved Targets a trophy and move on ... what do you think?]

So cheers to Ion, even if it's boo to DC Comics. Green Lantern up next, and then the sky's the limit!

Calling all Guest Bloggers!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Collected Editions is taking some time off starting in November for a little thing called NaNoWriMo, but never fear -- we've got a great line-up of guest reviews coming for all your trade paperback needs.

We still have some spaces open, so if you're interested in writing a review for Collected Editions -- or even want to guest post on your thoughts about trade paperbacks, graphic novels, or the state of the industry -- send an email to the Yahoo address at right and let us know!

We'd especially love to see (but aren't limited to) reviews of indie and non-mainstream trade paperbacks and graphic novels. If there's an undiscovered favorite for which you'd like to send a shout-out, be in touch -- November could be your chance to get the word out.

Friday Night Fights: Sixth Avenue Toothache!

Friday, October 19, 2007

So says the Atom:

"All the really cool gyms have flowers, yo."

Take that, sucker (-punch)! And don't forget the Mighty Marvel who's never a wall-flower, Bahlactus!

Review: Green Lantern Corps: To Be a Lantern trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Well, I thought I was the last person who was ever going to like Green Lantern Corps. But as with Green Lantern Corps: Recharge (read the Collected Editions review), I continue to be impressed with this series. In Green Lantern Corps: To Be a Lantern, Dave Gibbons wisely continues to focus on just a few Corps members (even fewer than the handfull in Recharge), and the close details on their struggles helps to humanize what might otherwise be a heavy-handed science-fiction, plot driven story. With all the excitement over "The Sinestro Corps War," To Be a Lantern is an excellent taste of the quality ahead.

In To Be a Lantern, Guy Gardner assists new Lantern Natu in solving the murder of the partner she abandoned. While Natu deals with anti-Lantern sentiments on her homeworld, Guy tries to take some time off, but is quickly attacked by the bounty hunter Bolphunga. Meanwhile, Lantern Vath tries to overcome his ever-present rage while his partner Kol must decide between the Corps and his mating urge.

Natu, Vath, and Kol are all new characters, and Gibbons works to give them each clear, well-defined struggles. Natu is slowly overcoming her own prejudices about the Corps, only to find that her society is not so forgiving; Vath and Kol have only just started to get along, only for each of them to be haunted by their pasts. There's a strong soap opera feel to each Lanterns' plotline, moreso than in other team books, perhaps because Gibbons seems in no rush to bring any of the stories to a conclusion; in face, Vath and Kol never even encounter Natu and Gardner in the trade. This gives the story a sweeping, epic feel, but the characterization is so strong that it's easy to get caught up.

Gibbons gets the most points in my book, however, for his portrayal of Guy Gardner. I'm a big fan of Gardner as written by Beau Smith; the way Smith redefined "manliness," if you will, such that Guy could be tough without being a jerk, was nothing short of brilliant. (Read Beau Smith's essay, "A Firestorm for Guy Gardner: Warrior" for more. I'm going to write a post on that one of these days.) It's easy for writers to write Guy as a jerk; it's harder--and the sign of a good writer--for writers to write Guy as a complex man with jerky, but also heroic, tendencies. Gibbons accomplishes this, giving Guy just the right amount of humor and bravery (the scene after the prince kills the informant is priceless - "There's no weapon, you lunkhead!" indeed).

If anything--and I can't believe I'm saying this--but it's only after the legendary Dave Gibbons takes over the art chores on the book that To Be a Lantern. Kudos to DC for putting Gibbons out in front, but Patrick Gleason's moody art far more fits this series. Gibbon's Guy Gardner too closely resembles the Justice League International version, and this combined with a looser story--Guy on a Risa-like planet--makes To Be a Lantern seem a little silly. Never fear, though; strong cut-scenes of Natu, Vath, and Kol help the story out.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Gotham Central volume three wins again. What's out there written better than that book?]

So Green Lantern Corps: To Be a Lantern wins my favor, and in all I'm very impressed with DC's resurrection of the Green Lantern mythos. Ion up next, followed by some Green Lantern proper!

More DC Comics trade paperbacks for 2008

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Here's a couple more trade paperbacks now confirmed coming down the DC Comics pike: Showcase Presents Booster Gold (collecting the Dan Jurgens series, perhaps), Outsiders: Five of a Kind (probably issue #50 of Outsiders plus the five-part miniseries), Robin: The Big Leagues, Lobo: Portrait of a Bastich, Superman: 3-2-1 Action (if this isn't a kids' book, I sure hope they change the title), Nightwing: The Missing Year (the next Marv Wolfman trade, collecting #133-137), and Shazam: The Greatest Stories Ever Told.


13 on 52: Week Eighteen

(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. 2.)

Thirteen words for Week Eighteen: Interesting tying of Renee/Adam story. Ralph/Fate an unlikely but fun combination.

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

DC Comics Trade Paperback Solicitations for January 2008

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not much this month in terms of main DCU trade paperbacks, but a couple of interesting reprint editions. Collected Edition comments in bold:

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Nicola Scott & Doug Hazlewood
Cover by Stephane Roux
Collecting BIRDS OF PREY #104-108! In this volume, the Birds of Prey cross paths with the villainous group the Secret Six, just as Spy Smasher takes the dismantling of Oracle's operation into her own hands! Who will end up with control of the Birds of Prey?
Advance-solicited; on sale February 27 • 128 pg, FC, $17.99 US

The final trade of Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey (* sniff ! *)

Written by John Rogers
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Cover by Cully Hamner
In this volume collecting issues #13-18 of the hot series, Jaime has his hands full when he learns the scarab’s alien owners are invading Earth — and no one will believe him! Plus, more adventures guest-starring popular Green Lantern Guy Gardner, the Teen Titans, the villainous Eclipso, Typhoon, Giganta and more!
Advance-solicited; on sale February 27 • 168 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Crosses over both with Countdown and with Teen Titans #50. The Teen Titans issue should show up in the next trade ... but where are those Countdown trades?

Written by Chuck Dixon
Art and cover by Derec Donovan
In this volume collecting the 6-issue miniseries, an archery contest beckons Oliver Queen's bow-bending son Connor Hawke to the far end of the globe. Accompanied by his old pal Eddie Fyers, Connor accepts the invitation. But a much darker game is afoot, and Connor's life will never be the same!
Advance-solicited; on sale February 13 • 144 pg, FC, $19.99 US

I don't know that this tied in much to the Green Arrow series overall, but Chuck Dixon writing Connor Hawke? Maybe for Christmas.

Written by Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
Art and cover by Brian Bolland
The classic Batman tale by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland returns in an all-new special edition! This edition — celebrating the 20th anniversary of the landmark work — features all-new coloring by Bolland, and includes the story “An Innocent Guy,” previously featured in BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE!
Advance-solicited; on sale March 19 • 6.625” x 10.1875” • 64 pg, FC, $17.99 US

Obviously this is a big deal, and the new coloring is interesting, but I think I'm satisfied with my original paperback without spending $20.00.

Written by Will Pfeifer
Art by David Lopez & Alvaro Lopez
Cover by Adam Hughes
The identity that Selina Kyle built for herself to protect her baby daughter is being destroyed at the hands of Hammer and Sickle in this all-new volume collecting CATWOMAN #66-72! With supervillains and the Gotham police hunting for both Selina and her replacement, Holly, drastic measures are needed!
Advance-solicited; on sale February 20 • 168 pg, FC, $14.99 US

Haven't started reading the post-Infinite Crisis Catwoman trades yet. Still going strong, apparently.

Written by Geoff Johns
Cover by Brian Bolland
Art by Scott Kolins, Ethan Van Sciver, Prentis Rollins and others
The Flash races into adventure in this incredible new edition of a classic trade paperback collecting THE FLASH #170-176, plus stories from THE FLASH SECRET FILES and IRON HEIGHTS, written by Geoff Johns! Featuring art by fan-favorites Ethan Van Sciver (GREEN LANTERN), Scott Kolins (Beyond) and more!
Advance-solicited; on sale February 20 • 240 pg, FC, $17.99 US

Man! So there's Iron Heights collected in a trade! But a new version of Blood Will Run ... now I've got to sell my old one ...

Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Cover by Maguire & Austin
Art by Kevin Maguire, Terry Austin and Al Gordon
A new hardcover collecting the classic JUSTICE LEAGUE #1-6 and JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #7 from the late 1980s! Can an unlikely new Justice League line-up work as a unit to stop terrorists at the U.N., a brigade of Rocket Reds, the Royal Flush Gang, and other threats — or will they succumb to in-fighting and bad jokes?
Advance-solicited; in stores March 12 • FC, 192 pg, $24.99 US

This is interesting! For once, I wish this had said "Volume One." I already have the original paperback that collected these issues -- question is, will they collect the rest of the series? (And for the doubters, does this show DC loves the 1980s Justice League?)

Written by Dennis O’Neil & Mike Sekowsky
Art and cover by Sekowsky & Dick Giordano
In this volume, featuring stories that have never been collected before from issues #178-184 and SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #93, Wonder Woman faces Mars, god of war, the murderous Dr. Cyber, and more!
Advance-solicited; on sale February 6 • 176 pg, FC, $19.99 US

Written by Bob Wayne & Lewis Shiner
Art and cover by Art Thibert & José Marzan Jr.
Collecting the often-requested TIME MASTERS #1-8 and material from SECRET ORIGINS #43, featuring 52’s Rip Hunter! Hunter forges alliances with DC heroes including Cave Carson, Metal Men creator Doctor Will Magnus, Dr. Fate, the Viking Prince, Arion and others to stop the threats of immortal super-villains including Vandal Savage and his Illuminati.
Advance-solicited; on sale February 13 • 224 pg, FC, $19.99 US

The above two are cool -- I'd be interested in reading about the Wonder Woman on which our current version is based, and Time Masters has a great reputation.

So what will you be buying in January?

Review: Shadowpact: The Pentacle Plot trade paperback (DC Comics)

Shadowpact is kind of like sweet-and-sour sauce. There's a lot here that's very good (the characters, specifically) and then there's quite a bit that's kind of blah--not as bad as, say, Bilson and DeMeo's Flash run, but just kind of unexceptional. Fortunately, not everything tends to go wrong with Shadowpact at the same time, carrying the story well enough to it's conclusion and making me fairly likely to purchase the next volume.

It's hard for me to rectify Bill Willingham's Fables work with the work he's done recently mainstream DC Comics, essentially Robin and Shadowpact. Willingham's Day of Vengeance preserved Fables' intrigue and fluid storytelling, perhaps because of it's short, contained story. Shadowpact, however, shares Robin's short, choppy scenes, as well as its penchant for one-note bad guys that seem more like filler than threats. Whereas Fables is distinctly imaginative, Shadowpact shines in fits and starts.

"The Pentacle Plot" storyline from which this Shadowpact trade takes its name actually only covers the first two or three issues of the book; the rest concerns the Shadowpact team recovering from a year-long absence and fighting mystical threats sent by a new enemy. The first plotline is as interesting as the second is mundane; "Pentacle" features interesting enemies with intriguing ties to the heroes, while the rest of the trade offers forgettable, one-note villains. "Pentacle" is indeed worth the price of the trade, but don't expect "Pentacle"'s quality to last throughout.

Willingham himself draws the "Pentacle" storyline well, but I was fairly relieved to see that he wouldn't be drawing Shadowpact by himself throughout. Willingham has a tendency, especially in the first issue, to draw what he writes--that is, Superman essentially remarks, "I'll have to use my heat vision" as the panel shows him using his heat vision, or Blue Devil says, "I'll punch this guy" as he punches someone. This tendency is a shame, because Willingham's animated art probably suits Shadowpact best of all the artists in this trade, though the later, more realistic art works well especially on Blue Devil.

What keeps bringing me back to Shadowpact, however, are the characters. It's a joy to see Blue Devil featured in a comic again, and Willingham portrays Ragman as a wonderful everyman. Detective Chimp doesn't get much airtime in this trade, but kudos to Willingham for revitalizing both Chimp and Rex the Wonder Dog in such workable ways. I enjoy the fact that Willingham writes a team of heroes who are second-tier, but no less serious about their hero-ing; the plot may lag, but there's nothing wrong with Willingham's writing of these characters. The camaraderie and "spirit," if you will, of these heroes makes me want to keep reading them, even despite the flaws in the trade.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Shadowpact can't unseat Gotham Central ... we could be looking at a new record!]

From the realms of magic to outer space ... tune in for some Green Lantern reviews coming up.

Friday Night Fights - All in the Family

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Kara, I swear I don't know why they won't let you wear a full shirt on Smallville--OW!"

Super-girl ... sucker punch!

(And for the one who takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin', visit ... Bahlactus!)

Review: The Trials of Shazam Volume 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Here's the thing about The Trials of Shazam volume 1--it would actually be pretty good, if it were the Trials of, say, Son of Vulcan or something. Trials of Shazam has great art, a likable protagonist, cool Lovecraft-type supernatural villains and monsters, and an interesting premise--but it just seems wrong for a Captain Marvel story.

One year after Infinite Crisis, apparently Captain Marvel's been growing increasingly powerful, until his magical lightning transforms him into a new, older form. Now known only as Marvel, he takes the place of the deceased Wizard on the Rock of Eternity, and selects Freddie Freeman--Captain Marvel, Jr.--as his new champion. If Freddie can complete seven trials and earn his magical powers, he'll now be known as the hero Shazam.

I'm slowly coming around to the belief that if the Captain Marvel character is going to work, Billy Batson has to be young--real young. Judd Winick's Superman/Shazam: First Thunder is a great example of how interesting Captain Marvel can be when Billy Batson is a baseball card-wielding child; Billy's awe at other heroes is a perfect counterpart to his powers as Captain Marvel.

The Trials of Shazam ages the Marvel characters--if Freddie Freeman is going to college, Billy and Mary Batson have to be at least that old. At that point, I think the dichotomy between Billy and Captain Marvel falls away; a college age Billy Batson is old enough to make the decisions of Captain Marvel, and the irony that makes the character interesting falls away.

Similarly, having Freddie Freeman take over as Captain Marvel--or as "Shazam," apparently, which helps get around a whole bunch of long-standing lawsuits--kind of defeats the purpose of Freddie Freeman. When Captain Marvel Jr. stands next to Captain Marvel, there's irony because they're both the same age but Marvel looks older. But when Freddie by himself turns from college age Freddie to college age Shazam, he's not much different than Blue Beetle or Robin--it's just another young guy in a cape.

Obviously, Judd Winick and Dan Didio know they're taking some risks here. Trials of Shazam volume one is a perfectly interesting, readable comic--if you're a fan of urban magic, Harry Potter-type sorcery and the like, you'll probably enjoy this very much. Howard Porter's painting here, especially, contributes greatly to a strong mystical atmosphere for the story. And maybe if the whole of comics fandom rallied around the new Shazam, he might become a permanent entity. But it's kind of like Kurt Busiek's new Arthur Joseph Aquaman--I know he's not the real thing, you know he's not the real thing, and sooner or later they're going to have to bring the Big Red Cheese back--and then also retcon out the fact that the Marvel family was, for a time, old enough to go to college. The continuity buff in me just feels like it's asking for trouble.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Gotham Central still stands tall over Trials of Shazam! Can anything beat this juggernaut?]

Shadowpact review on the way. See you soon!

13 on 52: Week Seventeen

Wednesday, October 10, 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. 2

Thirteen words for Week Seventeen: Distinctly confusing Devilance death scene. Lobo's joined church, but rips off Starfire's shirt?

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

Review: Superman/Shazam: First Thunder trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder is a trade paperback engaging for adults, but one that you wouldn't have to worry about the content if you gave it to your child (for the most part. There's a scene of graphic violence, but no language, sex, or mature themes).

To be honest, I have to say I'm a little surprised at all the flak Judd Winick's receiving lately (see the Newsarama announcement of Titans East for instance, further discussed here on Collected Editions). Sure, Outsiders is a little racy, but as an adult of appropriate age, I enjoy the mature humor and themes in Outsiders--and, we should all acknowledge, what Winick has done in Outsiders is quite specifically what he was charged to do when Dan Didio and DC Comics management came up with Outsiders, no less. But to think that Winick is going to turn Titans East into some Titans hentai orgy, just because Outsiders is at times, well, an orgy, is a little ridiculous. If Winick could write Pedro and Me and Superman/Shazam: First Thunder on one hand, and Outsiders on the other, I have to think he's versatile enough to handle Titans East in the manner it's intended. My two cents.

First Thunder, frankly, gives me a lot more hope for DC's new kids line. I'm skeptical that there's really an audience out there for comics that skew as young as Tiny Titans and Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, as opposed to the current Johnny DC lineup, and I'm equally skeptical that there's an adult audience that will support those titles simply for the joy of them. But if, and that's a big IF, the Billy Batson title is anywhere as good as First Thunder, maybe the whole thing has a chance.

To the review, then. Much of what I enjoyed about First Thunder is my sense that Judd Winick really "got" the characters--especially Clark Kent, who at this point is just starting out and is relatively new to the Superman persona--and that Winick understood the inherit contradictions built in to the identity of Captain Marvel--that, when you're talking to Superman, you at least know you're talking to a grown man, whereas Marvel appears to be a grown man but is really a boy.

Winick shows a Billy Batson ecstatic over getting to meet his idol Superman, and a young Clark Kent starting to let his guard down around other superheroes; the scene where finds himself accidentally mentioning Smallville is especially touching. When Billy's identity is revealed, however, Superman does not feel betrayed; instead, he challenges how the wizard Shazam could endanger a child in this way. The dichotomy between Captain Marvel's appearance and his age is most often played for romantic laughs, and the way Winick's unique usage here--showing especially both Superman's strengths and vulnerabilities is especially good.

Additionally, Josh Middleton's art is highly appropriate for this story. There's a quality to it that's not cartoony, per se, but instead resembles cells from an animated cartoon, much like Rob Haynes in the Superman/Superboy: Sins of Youth story. Middleton's figures are almost caricatures, with Captain Marvel's face appearing rubbery at times, but the hero's over-large chin and eyebrows work well to suggest the boy behind the man. Middleton's Eclipso here is traditional to the villain's roots, and the simple impishness of Eclipso versus his Jean-Loring purple-deco costume is refreshing.

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: First Thunder is good, but it doesn't carry the powerful emotion of Gotham Central. Can anything beat Unresolved Targets? We'll see!]

I re-read the Superman/Shazam story in Day of Vengeance (see our review) just after I finished First Thunder and there's some thematic elements that carry from one story to the next, though First Thunder is certainly the stronger of the two. But we're on a magic kick now here at Collected Editions--keep watching for Trials of Shazam, Shadowpact, and more. Ciao!

Review: Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre is true to its name, in that this trade is fairly consistent with classic Spectre material; unfortunately, it's just not my cup of tea. Despite the crime drama potential brought by Gotham Central's Crispus Allen, or the superhero elements inherit in JSA-member Spectre, this new Spectre trade--especially the Tales of the Unexpected chapters written by David Lapham--is devoutly a horror comic.

There's little, if any, overarching plot here (a consequence, perhaps, of being volume one of two); instead, see the final chapters of The Spectre as a kind of EC Comics-style shorts, where a gruesome crime is committed and then the Spectre arrives to mete out even gruesomer-style vengeance. Blood is not in short supply here.

Granted, this type of Spectre story has precedent, and if you're a fan of the Michael Fleisher/Jim Aparo Spectre stories where the ghost delivers ironic revenge against the criminals, this is for you. Honestly, the tone of this Spectre series seems almost more appropriate for Vertigo than DC--resembling, perhaps, some of the initial Sandman issues--and might have found a better audience there.

Story and art-wise, I far better enjoyed the more character-driven and superhero-y initial chapters written by Will Pfeifer with gorgeous art by Cliff Chang. Yet, the tour of vengeance that the Spectre takes Allen on serves to remind the reader just how powerful the Spectre is--he knows every crime before it happens and how it's going to turn out, making any sort of story potential seem desperately difficult. Somehow John Ostrander did it, and did it well, but both Pfeifer and Lapham seem stymied by the Spectre's powers, and so offer us all of the gore and none of the mystery.

To be honest, I'm probably just going to put the second volume of this trade on my wish list to get as a gift for the holidays, rather than purchase it myself. I'm highly in favor of Crispus Allen continuing as the Spectre, but this series just didn't do it for me. (Chris's Invincible Super-Blog felt much the same.)

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: As if you even have to ask, The Spectre does not triumph over the third volume of Gotham Central. Unresolved Targets beats the Spirit of Vengeance!]

More supernatural tales with Captain Marvel and the Shadowpact coming up. Thanks for reading!

13 on 52: Week Sixteen

Wednesday, October 03, 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. 2

Thirteen words for Week Sixteen: Good mix of romance/violence; as series continues, more emphasis on single storylines.

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

Review: Gotham Central: Dead Robin trade paperback and Gotham Central retrospective (DC Comics)

Monday, October 01, 2007

One major dichotomy in the Batman mythos has always been the tension between Batman's portrayal as an "aloof loner," and the existence of the Batman family, including Robin, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon. While Batman is supposed to be an unlicensed vigilante, he has for most of his history enjoyed tacit police approval from Gordon, with Gordon's officers mainly staying out of Batman's way.

The Gotham Central series -- written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker shortly after the "Officer Down" crossover that saw Jim Gordon retire -- therefore offers a non-traditional take on Batman. Without Jim Gordon to provide the united face of the Gotham police force, we see a Major Crimes Unit that often considers Batman an impediment, and even an embarrassment. As shown from the perspective of the Gotham police, Batman is a vigilante in line with his own legend; in this way, the relatively short-lived Gotham Central series may one of the purest portrayals of Batman available.

Through the five trade paperback collections of Gotham Central (read all the Collected Editions Gotham Central reviews), Rucka and Brubaker give the Gotham police good reason to resent the Batman. Over about half-a-dozen major cases, Batman surpasses the Gotham police in stopping Mr. Freeze and Two-Face, and solved both the Joker's bomb plot and the Dead Robin case. It's only officer Josie MacDonald's mention of Batman that keeps disgraced detective Harvey Bullock from killing himself in Gotham Central: Unresolved Targets.

Additionally, when Batman is unsuccessful or uninvolved, the cases usually end tragically. In Gotham Central: The Quick and the Dead, Officer Peak has to kill his partner, the mutated Officer Kelly, when Batman can't subdue him; in Gotham Central: Dead Robin, Batman never appears in the "Corrigan 2" storyline where Detective Crispus Allen is murdered.

Yet, the Gotham police are not uniform in their reactions to the Batman. In Quick and the Dead, where Gotham Police Commissioner Michael Atkins formally splits from Batman after the Batman: War Games crossover, Allen and Detective Renee Montoya debate Batman's role with the police. Allen, originally from Metropolis, believes Batman's vigilantism breeds chaos in the city, whereas Montoya, originally from Gotham, credits Batman for her decision to become a police officer.

Detective Marcus Driver, one of the first characters introduced in Gotham Central and arguably one of the series' leads, actually changes over the course of the series in terms of his attitude toward the Batman. At the beginning, in the In the Line of Duty trade, Driver resents Batman's presence in solving the murder of Driver's partner by Mr. Freeze. Driver changes his mind, however, once he understands the scope of Freeze's plan.

When Driver's girlfriend, Detective Romy Chandler, shoots at Batman in the Dead Robin trade, Driver explains his own gradual understanding that Batman is "on our side, in his own way." Driver mediates with Commissioner Atkins for Batman's help in the Dead Robin case, and Driver's later description of his love/hate relationship with Gotham City could as easily be a reference to the Batman.

One potential reason for the Gotham police's mistrust of Batman is distinctly because of his loner status. One of the strongest themes in Gotham Central is the importance of partnership, including Driver and the loss of his partner Charlie Fields, Detective Nate Patton sacrificing his life for Chandler, and Montoya's work to save Allen from the corrupt Jim Corrigan. Batman, as an independent entity, represents a lack of partnership, and this comes strongly into play during the Dead Robin case, when the police must consider whether Batman's own partner has been killed. Allen notes, "Any other case, we'd put the partner at the top of the list of suspects."

The resolution of Batman's relationship with the Gotham police is somewhat unsatisfactory, perhaps due to the quick cancellation of the series. Aside from the change in Driver, there's no large-scale formal reconciliation between the parties. After Batman finishes the Dead Robin case, however, Captain Maggie Sawyer grudgingly admits to reporter Simon Lippman that Batman's "help was instrumental in the arrest." This, and Batman returning Chandler's offending gun, have to serve as the coda to Gotham Central, shortly before both Batman and the Gotham Central title are swept up in the Infinite Crisis crossover.

I struggled with whether the final Gotham Central storylines in Dead Robin, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Corrigan 2," really felt like a proper end to Gotham Central, given their ties to Infinite Crisis and obvious lead-in to 52. Ultimately, however, Allen's death, and the culmination of Montoya's fall with her quitting the police force, show exactly what many of the Gotham police note all along -- that it's hard to be a cop in Gotham City and make it out alive.

Indeed, Gotham Central is often about the dark side -- witness, indeed, the use of Jim Corrigan, probably one of the most recognizable good-cop names in the DC Comics Universe short of Barry Allen, here filling the role of a villain. Gotham Central is a series filled with strong friendships, but also tragedy, and it's the tragedy that wins out (and of course, if you're not satisfied, you can always follow the characters into their various spin-offs).

We return, finally, to Jim Gordon's cameo in the first storyline of In the Line of Duty, where he notes that "whatever you do ... you're going to make a difference. A lot of times it won't be huge, it won't be visible, even." The writers obviously meant this as a parable for the Gotham City police, but it's just as true for Gotham Central, a series that, while not a commercial success, sets a standard for comics in its characterization, plotting, and unique take on both the Batman mythos and the DC Universe.

Just six issues remain uncollected (#11, 16-18, 26, and 27), and this trade paperback fan hopes we haven't seen the last Gotham Central collection after all. [Edit: Gotham Central has subsequently been released in hardcover volumes which collect all issues of the series, including those previously uncollected.]

What's your favorite Gotham Central trade?