Review: Batman and Son hardcover collection (DC Comics)

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Monday, December 31, 2007

From the moment you take off the dust jacket of Batman and Son (if you're into that kind of thing), it's obvious DC Comics means business with this collection. DC has embossed an Andy Kubert Batman image in black on the hardcover; obviously, with Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert's names on the front, this is supposed to be a flagship DC Comics Batman volume.

It is, in a word, great, though not perhaps the volume I would give a first-time Batman reader (save that for Batman: Detective). Morrison is steeped here in Batman coolness, and there's much to savor--from the straight-up superhero action of the main storyline, the short Joker prose story, the more esoteric "Black Casebook" two-parter, and the final Elseworlds epilogue--but the variety of writing styles might jar a casual reader.

Letting alone, Morrison's writing is at times as super-heroic as it is metaphoric. There's an extended sequence with Batman, Commisioner Gordon, and the Joker in the first few pages which serve more thematically than anything else (where Gordon, in true Morrison style, speaks to the reader), and it's hard to miss the meta-interpretive background when Batman fights ninja Man-Bats in a museum full of pop art.

I was most taken in this volume not by the "Batman and Son" storyline, which has classic elements in its own right, but more by "The Clown at Midnight" and "The Black Casebook." "Casebook"--apparently part of Morrison's larger Batman arc--begins with a match between Batman and a Bane-like figure; Morrison's take on a Knightfall-haunted Bruce Wayne is remarkably compelling. Even moreso is Morrison's new Joker novella, with images by John Van Fleet, which is unquestionable supposed to put one in mind of Morrison's Arkham Asylum. The end to "Clown" comes a little quick, but there's more than enough scary bits along the way.

Morrison has famously referred to his take on Batman as the "hairy-chested Neal Adams love god"; think, perhaps, Bruce Wayne crossed with James Bond, a reference Morrison makes in the story (only, Wayne remarks, "much cooler"). Indeed, the Bruce Wayne here, in relationships both with Talia and new character Jezebel Jet, is lustful--if not loving--and also a bit naive--he can't quite believe Talia would risk the life of her own child.

More importantly, in our post-Infinite Crisis world, we see a Bruce Wayne concerned with things like whether Robin knows that Bruce is proud of him. Whereas previously we had the sense that Batman's partners were a means to an end in his war on crime, we now get the sense that his partners are his end--that is, his war on crime is for the purpose of keeping Alfred, Tim, Selina, and the rest safe. This is a Bruce Wayne, as in the Batman movies, who has a soft spot for people who do good and seems eager to find the good in everyone, and he's far more readable than Batmen past.

I want to comment a little more on Morrison and Paul Dini's Batman, in examining the implications of the "New Earth" Batman. Look for that column shortly.

[Contains full covers.]

Have a happy new year, everyone! Join us on Thursday as we kick off a special New Year's look at Mark Waid's latest Legion of Super-Heroes run, with Legion trivia and more.  Be there! 

Review: Batman: Detective trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Paul Dini's Batman: Detective is a phenomenon in today's trade paperback market--a book of six done-in-one Batman issues--and it works perfectly. Dini, assisted by DC's post-Infinite Crisis return to basics, writes an iconic version of Batman, Robin, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon that any fan will easily recognize and enjoy; this is the perfect kind of comic you can hand to a fan of Batman Begins or a lapsed Batman reader. For longtime DC fans, Dini includes enough subtle references to current DC continuity (Face the Face, Hush) to ground the series in the present.

As the title suggests, Detective offers six true Batman whodunits, a refreshing change after the more superheroic Batman stories of the Infinite Crisis era. The mysteries here aren't, I'll admit, of Batman: Long Halloween caliber, more like your average episode of Law and Order, but there's a fun, Sherlock Holmesian feel every time Batman reveals the killer. I was impressed, as well, with Dini's balance of crime-solving and crime-fighting; there's no lack of Bat-action in this tale, as with J. H. William's highlighted punches in the first chapter.

The final chapter, however, featuring Robin and the Joker, really distinguishes Dini as a master Bat-writer (as if Batman: The Animated Series hadn't already done so). I read Detective in two parts, chapters one through three and then four and five, and after the first part I was only mildly impressed with the trade; chapter five blew me away. This is a startling, shocking, white-knuckle story, and I hesitate to give away too many details. If you enjoyed Robin and the Joker's conflict in the Robin II miniseries, this is a most fantastic followup.

I only had a few quibbles with Batman: Detective. For one, though Don Kramer does a great job as the main artist, there's little continuity between the others artists's styles; most notably, Tim Drake goes from a teenager to a child and back over the course of the trade. And speaking of continuity, while Dini does his best to reference Face the Face, some of those references are just wrong, especially Poison Ivy's recollection of her most recent crimes. Dini gets points for effort, but it doesn't quite come through.

I want to talk a little more about this iconic, New Earth Batman in another post, coming soon. In the fourth chapter of Detective, the banter between Bruce and Alfred is almost Silver Age, and it suggests some interesting choices by DC in their new and improved Batman. More on this coming soon.

[Contains full covers.]

We continue our Bat-reviews with Grant Morrison's Batman and Son, coming Monday!

13 on 52: Week Twenty-Eight

Wednesday, December 26, 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. 3.)

Thirteen words for Week Twenty-Eight: Lobo plot remains unclear; Head a Lantern, or a ship? Batwoman still rocks.

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

Review: Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina trade paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Monday, December 24, 2007

A idea is not considered, under the general definitions, to live. It doesn't eat or drink, nor walk autonomously from place to place. But in the case of Animal Man, as Grant Morrison posits in the third collected volume of the series, Deus Ex Machina, the character was both created before Morrison came to comics, and will live on after Morrison leaves--does that not suggest to Animal Man some kind of life?

This is akin, of course, to saying that something like democracy or a religion lives; it's not so much that the thing itself is alive, as that it's kept in the common consciousness by the people who support it--in Animal Man's case, comic book readers. Still, even if it's hard to shake the wishful fiction from Morrison's ideas, Animal Man nonetheless makes a compelling read.

The third Animal Man volume is definitely the most esoteric of the three. From the first issues, where Animal Man undergoes a drug trip in the desert, to the final issue where Grant Morrison himself makes an appearance, Deus Ex Machina marks Animal Man's true deviation from traditional super-hero comics. As with Sandman, this in some way requires that Animal Man become a bit player in his own comic, and the story takes on a picaresque feel as Animal Man travels from lunch with the Phantom Stranger to comic book limbo and beyond. The story becomes not as much about Animal Man as about the people and ideas he encounters--which, as Morrison notes in his own appearance, is often more an attribute of "real" life than comic book stories.

I found Animal Man's visit to limbo the most compelling part of this story, especially the idea that comic book characters live entire lives in limbo that they simply can't remember when they re-emerge. There's also an interesting history lesson in traveling through Morrison's depiction of limbo; it's hard ever to believe that a current standard like Mr. Freeze was ever condemned to limbo. Morrison's prescience through out this chapter is amazing; the Shadowpact's Detective Chimp and Nightmaster appear here, as does Max Mercury and more.

Animal Man's meeting with Grant Morrison in the end, and the favors Morrison grants him, live up to the story's deus ex machina promise. Indeed, very little is resolved in terms of the aliens who created Animal Man, why Crisis on Infinite Earths begins to reverse itself in these pages, and even why Animal Man, of all the characters, is able to understand so much more about his existence than the rest. Morrison himself opines that even as he's trying to make claims about a larger issue in Animal Man, he never quite reaches it; he worries that the book may have been more preachy than it needed to be. Even if there is no true ending to Animal Man, however, and no true end promised, the ambitiousness of the project is worth the price of admission.

[Contains full covers.]

Coming on Thursday, a review of Paul Dini's Batman: Detective, followed by Grant Morrison's Batman and Son. Happy holidays to all!

Review: Animal Man: Origin of the Species trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Whereas the first Animal Man volume seemed far more like set-up than a collected story, Origin of the Species tells the complete story of Buddy Baker's growing animal activism, leading up to a fateful decision about his future as a super-hero. The stories leading up to the finale of Origin of the Species are fantastic single issues in their own right — in one, he helps B'wana Beast choose his sucessor in the midst of South African oppression; in another, he fights with the Sea Devils against dolphin hunters — but it's in the final chapter that Grant Morrison really defines this series. Buddy is forced to confront the imponderables of super-heroing — whether super-heroes must always be role models, whether a hero's responsibility is to the law or to moral rights, how costumed heroes can possibly fight the true injustices of the world — and the prose shines on the page. Morrison, of course, can offer no better answers here than any others, but his portrayal of Buddy's struggle is iminently compelling.

Animal Man: Origin of the Species, offers two overriding plotlines, both that of Buddy's struggle for animal rights, and also a strange mystery that DC Comics' fans will recognize is tied to the aftermath of the 1980s' Crisis on Infinite Earths. The second is unresolved by the end of the trade, and it's only the pacing of the stories — Origin of the Species begins with the cosmic mystery, and then for the most part abandons it in favor of Buddy's moral crisis — that makes their juxtaposition somewhat jarring. As with the first Animal Man trade, I think some the awkwardness here comes from the modern reader's exposure to recent written-for-trade trade paperbacks, which wrap up far neater. Origin of the Species is definitively a collection of single issues, and not a graphic novel, but it's no less the richer for it.

It's interesting here, as with the first Animal Man trade, to see the dual DC Comics and Vertigo logos on the trade; possibly this is simply how Vertigo trades were marked in the beginning, but it continues to speak to the birth of Vertigo and the evolution of some titles from DC to Vertigo. The Vertigo elements here are more than just graphic violence — of which there's far more here against animals than against people — but also the social and political commentaries sprinkled throughout. Current DC fans will also enjoy an extended guest appearance by current Justice League member Vixen, as well as some Mirror Master continuity that fits exceptionally well into what Geoff Johns would establish about the character later.

[Contains full covers.]

Two Animal Men down, one to go. Stick around!

13 on 52: Week Twenty-Seven

Wednesday, December 19, 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. 3.)

Thirteen words for Week Twenty-Seven: Ralph scene brutal; worth it to see Waverider. Could Rip Hunter be Supernova?

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

Review: Animal Man trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 17, 2007

The first Animal Man volume serves more as an introduction to the character than as an actual forward-moving storyline; if you're looking for a complete story when you read the first trade, then essentially you've signed on for all three volumes. This kind of "collection of issues" storytelling caught me off guard, frankly, until I realized this used to be the norm, spoiled as I've been by our new era of books written for trade.

The first four chapters (which, author Grant Morrison notes in his introduction, he originally wrote as an Animal Man miniseries) pit Animal Man Buddy Baker against B'Wana Beast, with Animal Man reluctantly on the side of STAR Labs animal testing division. The fifth chapter is a self-contained story that introduces some of the ongoing existential themes of the series; the last four chapters take Buddy Baker in and out of DC's Invasion mini-series. In this way, we get an enjoyable introduction to Buddy and his family, spend time with them and learn some of their foibles, but the last two chapters contain quite a bit of foreshadowing that won't be resolved until future trades.

Morrison, as is appropriate, uses much of the story of Animal Man to turn around the lens and focus on the beastliness of man. In the first four issues, B'Wana Beast shares true love with his gorilla friend and a cat gives her life to protect her kittens, while scientists torture helpless monkeys and hunters threaten rape against Buddy's wife, Ellen. The parallel storytelling here is genuine though arguably heavy-handed, but Morrison makes up for it in the second half of the trade, where the suggested existence of a higher power puts to lie the idea that mankind is the dominant species. As Morrison's ideas become more complicated, the book benefits overall.

There's lots of blood in Animal Man, and while there's no real gore per se, reading this trade gives an interesting hint as to the evolution of the Vertigo comics line. Though Grant Morrison left Animal Man before it joined Vertigo, the end of the first storyline where an scientist gets his comeuppance is reminiscent of the kind of psychological horror later found in Sandman.

I read Animal Man in part trying to understand certain scenes in DC's 52, without much luck. Indeed, Animal Man starts well after Buddy has received and learned about his powers; this makes the trade no less enjoyable, but don't expect to come here and find lots of DC Universe continuity (short of a spot-on cameo by Martian Manhunter). Should more appear in later volumes, I'll let you know.

[Contains full covers, introduction by Grant Morrison.]

A review of the second Animal Man collection coming later this week!

DC Comics Announces 2008 Trade Paperbacks

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Running short on time (probably no Friday Night Fights this week, but bet on Bahlactus anyway), so just a quick note that Newsarama has posted DC Comics trade paperback solictations through June 2008 and for Summer 2008.

I love these releases because there's so much cool stuff here, too much to go into right now. I'm impressed at the very least that Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul is just one volume instead of two, and ditto for Death of the New Gods. Check the Legion Omnicom for more details on Legion of Super-Heroes: 1,050 Years of the Future trade. Plus we finally see Superman: Last Son.

Newsarama poster "ultraaman" does a good job breaking down price points for some of the trades here.

Anything new added to your buy list?

Review: 52, Volume 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

52 Volume 2I was very impressed with the ongoing storylines in 52, Volume 2. Each of the five principles returned--Renee Montoya, Booster Gold, Black Adam, Steel, and Ralph Dibny--and I felt each of their plots progressed in an unexpected way, from Booster’s death to Renee and the Question’s friendship with, rather than animosity toward, Black Adam and Isis. 52 continues to surprise and delight, and the third volume can’t come soon enough.

After Booster Gold dies saving Metropolis, Skeets recruits Booster’s ancestor to return to Rip Hunter’s lab; it turns out Skeets is actually working to break the timestream. Renee Montoya and the Question are framed by Intergang and imprisoned in Kahndaq; they escape in time to stop a bomber at Black Adam and Isis’s wedding, and help the Marvels rescue Isis’s brother. Ralph Dibny begins a spiritual journey with the Helmet of Fate while the team in space is aided by Lobo. Luthor’s Everyman team become Infinity, Inc., meeting the Titans; the new JLA fails in their first mission and Checkmate is reinstated. T. O. Morrow kidnaps Will Magnus and demands his help on an island of mad scientists.

My favorite plot within 52 remains Booster Gold’s, and it’s unfortunate his gets such a short shrift this time around. My second favorite, fortunately, is that of Renee and the Question, and as I mentioned above, I liked how this plot defied my expectations in this volume--it would be easy to make Black Adam the bad guy and Renee the good guy, but instead we find them working for common causes here. Though I had soured on the seemingly generic Steel/Luthor fight in the last volume, I thought the writers did a great job tying the Everyman project into the legacy of Infinity, Inc., giving this plot a larger connection to the DC Universe.

In the comments that follow each chapter of 52, Keith Giffen talks quite a bit about Grant Morrison writing the scenes with Lobo, who Giffen created. This was my least favorite plot this time around; while I appreciate the tour of the cosmic aspects of the DC Universe, the plot didn’t have much to do with the space-faring heroes themselves, more so than just moving them from point A to point B. Lobo has apparently found religion, though on some pages he still seemed to be his old bawdy self (as when he rips off Starfire’s shirt), and then on other pages professes to have changes. This is further confused by the appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Emerald Eye which somehow factors in; maybe this will all make more sense next volume when the heroes confront whomever Lobo stole the eye from.

The second 52 volume shows a larger swath of the DC Universe beginning to emerge after Infinite Crisis. Green Arrow pursues his mayoral candidacy while the JLA re-forms; this trade also offers cameos by one incarnation of the Teen Titans, the Shadowpact, and Checkmate. Though much of this is self-explanatory in the other titles, these bits are still welcome; we didn’t necessarily, for instance, learn anything new by seeing Green Lantern ask Mr. Terrific to join Checkmate, but it’s a moving scene nonetheless. I’m eager for more of this as 52 continues. Of course, the Phil Jimenez-penned Martian Manhunter sequence steals the show, as J’onn mourns the fallen members of the Justice League.

This edition of 52 felt slower than the first, without quite as many intriguing twists. The richness of the DCU and the strength of its heritage was more apparent, however, and this makes the second volume a welcome addition overall.

[Contains full covers, sketchbook, commentary from the writers.]

Another volume of 52 down! Join us next Wednesday as our 13 on 52 series continues, counting down to 52 Volume 3, and on Monday, we begin a look at Grant Morrison's Animal Man collections. 
Thanks for reading!

13 on 52: Week Twenty-Six

Wednesday, December 12, 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 Twenty-Six: Strange issue; hardly know Sivana family. Talk show balances previous Steel/Natasha fight.

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

Top Ten Batman Trade Paperbacks

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's time for another top ten essential trade paperbacks list from Collected Editions! If you haven't read our list of Top Ten Superman trade paperbacks, click the link to see it. And now on to the Batman trades ...

* Batman: Knightfall
This Bat-saga created in the wake of The Death of Superman never gets the credit that it deserves. In total, the trilogy was probably a too-long telling of the fall and rise of Batman; in parts, however, Knightfall is a thrilling tale of Batman pushed by his enemies to the brink of exhaustion ... and beyond. Part one is great for fans of Batman's colorful villains, nearly all of whom appear here.

* Batman: Death and the Maidens
I literally stayed up all night to finish this gripping Batman/Ra's al Ghul story, written by Greg Rucka in the spirit of the original Dennis O'Neil Ra's tales. Rucka has an addictive, pulse-pounding story that weaves in and out of history and ultimately makes a major change to Batman continuity. This is a classic Batman story, and comes with one of my highest recommendations.

* Batman: Evolution
Then-new writer Greg Rucka's beginning Detective Comics after the mega-No Man's Land crossover. In an attempt to distinguish the title, the colorist worked with a limited pallet, creating comics that were often only shades of reds, blues, and greens. The result is a gorgeously moody Batman comic featuring yet another Ra's al Ghul tale by Rucka. I feel the art here is something every fan should experience.

* Batman: No Man's Land
No Man's Land is a gigantic six-trade collection of a year-long Batman crossover, unique in it's authorial structure such that the story read far more like a novel than most comics crossovers. The story drags, undoubtedly, at times, but the stories of Batman's return to the city in the beginning, and the bittersweet end, are both worth reading.

* Batman: Sword of Azrael
By the time Knightfall was over, no one really liked the Azrael character, but I always thought there was a lot of potential in this initial mini-series. The writing is by comics legend Dennis O'Neil, and art is by current Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. The story pits Batman against a Knights Templar-type organization, with one Jean-Paul Valley caught in the middle; Valley has no idea he's next in line to become the order's avenging Azrael.

* Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying
Not as well known as A Death in the Family, the story that killed off the second Robin, Lonely is the first appearance of the third and current Robin, Tim Drake. It's also, however, a Batman/New Titans crossover, which should thrill any 1980s comics fan, and is written by New Titans creator Marv Wolfman. For Batman, Robin, or Nightwing fans, this is a good one.

* Batman: Year Two
Also not as well known as Batman: Year One, Year Two is a great mystery with tragic romance that works so well with the Batman character. The story deals with the man who murdered Batman's parents and the reasons Batman doesn't carry a gun; art is by Todd McFarlane of Spawn fame.

* Batman: Broken City
Sandwiched between the vaunted Batman: Hush and the start of some new creative teams, Broken City didn't get much notice, but deserved it. This is moody, hard-boiled crime fiction with plenty of snapped arms and broken teeth--it's also an excellent Batman whodunit. If you like Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's 100 Bullets, you should have this in your collection.

* Batman: Bruce Wayne — Fugitive Vol. 3
The Batman Murderer/Fugitive story wasn't a bad crossover, only perhaps went on a little too long. This final trade, though, is a gift from DC Comics -- after volumes one and two, they realized there were enough good follow-up stories out there to warrant a third trade. What you find here are smaller stories featuring Batman and his sidekicks; Rucka's the three-part about Batman's hunt for, and failed romance with, Checkmate's Sasha Bordeaux is worth the price of admission.

* Batman Adventures: The Lost Years
Lost Years is a trade collecting a mini-series that bridged the gap between two different Batman cartoon series and, essentially, it's the animated universe's take on the origin of Nightwing and the rise of the new Robin. If you're a Nightwing or Bat-verse fan, this is some fun revisionist history done in the animated style.

Agree? Hate my choices? Got something to add? Leave a comment!

Friday Night Fights: Monkey Pirates!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Reading some Legion trades right now, so I went looking for a Legion image ...

Came for the Legion image, stayed for the blue and purple monkey-looking pirate guy. Because if there was ever someone who had enough problems as is without getting hit by Ultra Boy, it's this guy.

(And for the guy who's fashion sense is always bar none, always bet on Bahlactus!)

Review: Justice League Elite, Volume 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Just a short take on the second Justice League Elite trade today. Constant readers know what a fan I was of the first volume of Justice League Elite. Well, I've just read issues five through twelve, and balancing the first trade with the second, the first would still remain my favorite. Justice League Elite Volume One packed a lot of political intrigue into a few short chapters; the Elite had to balance working undercover with a team of assassins against preventing loss of life and stopping foreign genocide. The entire story, from intriguing beginnings to startling ending, is both fresh and engaging. In the second half, however, elements of standard superhero fare begin to creep in; the infiltration of a drug ring leads to an alien crime boss who's neither interesting nor comprehensible, and almost as quickly, the crime boss is killed off by an even more obscure Fourth World menace. From there, the story quickly degrades to an internal Elite battle to save Vera Black from herself, the end relying on something of a cosmic restart button. At the same time, we get more of Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen drawing both the Elite and the JLA, and Joe Kelly does a fantasic job of showing the flawed-but-trying Elite, especially Coldcast, Major Disaster, and Manitou Raven and Dawn. Worth it, perhaps, to finish off the series, though not the finale I had hoped.

Anyone else read the second volume? How did you think it stacked up to the first?

Coming next week, the Collected Editions review of 52, Volume Two!

13 on 52: Week Twenty-Five

Wednesday, December 05, 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 Twenty-Five: Bloody Halloween tale. Revealing more DCU's missing year. Surprised Intergang's funding mad scientists.

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

Review: Mystery in Space Volume 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mystery in Space Volume 1, which stars both Captain Comet and The Weird, is a mystery set in space. And it's weird. And lest you think at this point I'm just restating the obvious, let me say that in comparison to Tales of the Unexpected--another DC standby title re-released as a mini-series after Infinite Crisis much the same as Mystery in Space--Mystery is such a far superior comic (than Tales' Spectre feature, at least), and it's mystery and weirdness make for a wonderful, readable mix. Mystery is a prime example of the power of the mini-series, taking two forgotten DC characters and making them for a short time eminently follow-able.

Jim Starlin does a lot of re-casting of Captain Comet at the beginning of this series (in part because, according to this interview, he initially thought he'd be working with Adam Strange. Comet's powers are subtly different from what they were before, and Starlin introduces new supporting case (including, no kidding, a talking bulldog). The result is a story about your generic swashbuckling space hero, kind of like an Adam Strange with telepathic abilities. That's fine with me; I never had a connection to Captain Comet as a character, and Starlin's new Comet is brash and bold without being over-the-top; Comet's telepathic powers allow the character just the right amount of thinking man's introspection.

It's in the Weird back-up feature that Starlin's work really shines. The Weird is a Stranger in a Strange Land-type character that approaches every situation with an alien's bemused detachment; the Weird himself is neither stupid nor incapable, he's just ... weird. Starlin wastes little time before injecting the Weird section with trippy, psychedelic splash pages--the whole thing feels like a throwback to comics of the 1960s, but Starlin's choice to set the Weird sequences in synch with the Comet tale gives the back-up stories necessary relevance.

There's a lot of narration (what used to be thought balloons) in Mystery in Space, the kind of thing that helped to ruin Hawkgirl: The Maw (read our review here), but it works in Mystery. In part, this is because Comet and Weird are both observers in their own stories, and their thought processes add to the building of the characters. Second, Starlin avoids Bill Willingham's danger in Shadowpact: The Pentacle Plot of letting the narration echo what the characters are already doing. By having the characters carry on mental conversations in addition to their action, Starlin has created an action-epic with a surprisingly lot to read!

Finally, Starlin sets Mystery in Space at the Hardcore Station he created in a series by the same time, and includes characters from that series. I haven't read it, believing at the time it was just a "throw-away" mini-series guest-starring the JLA. Which it still is, really, but given that Hardcore Station has shown up a time or two since then, and how much I enjoyed Starlin's writing on this title, I think I'd be willing to buy a collection of the mini. (Hey, DC!)

[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Mystery in Space is good ... but not good enough to beat Green Lantern. Hal Jordan remains ... Wanted!]

And we're back!

First, a bit of self-congratulation:

Fifty thousand words in a one month. Hooray!

Next, a gigantic collected thank you to the guest bloggers who filled in during National Novel Writing Month: Simon Finger, Bob Hodges, and Doug Glassman, who did five (!) reviews and even got mentioned in Augie De Blieck Jr.'s Pipeline column. Let's give them all a round of applause!  Couldn't have done it without all of you, so thanks! Come back anytime!

And now ... new reviews on the way! Check back here later today for Mystery in Space, Volume 1. We've got Justice League Elite, we've got Batman, we've got Animal Man, we've got a whole slew of Legion of Super-Heroes coming up, we've got the end of 52, we've got all the latest trade paperback news as it breaks! All through December and into the new year, keep watching Collected Editions.


PS Having a little comments trouble right now, so moderation is on. Please keep leaving your comments -- all the responses are great! -- and moderation should be off soon. All best!