DC Fall 2008 Trade Paperbacks - Updated

Monday, March 31, 2008

In addition to the fall 2008 DC Comics trade collections we've already revealed at Collected Editions, here's a couple more:

  • Batman: Joker's Asylum
  • Justice League of America: Sanctuary - the fourth collection of the new Justice League of America series, by Dwayne McDuffie
  • Green Lantern: Secret Origin - the next Geoff Johns collection
  • Teen Titans Spotlight: Raven - the new Marv Wolfman miniseries; interesting that this is no longer being listed as "DC Special"
  • Superman: Past and Future - this is by various; hopefully this collects some of the time-travelling tales like Action Comics #850 that have been passed in other volumes
  • Infinity Inc., Volume 2: The Bogeyman
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: The More Things Change - the next Paul Levitz collection

I'm super-excited about that Superman: Past and Future ... you?

Review: Tangent Comics Volume One trade paperback (DC Comics)

In reintroducing the Multiverse to DC Comics continuity, the current DC Editorial has found a new dimension to the variant Earths that the originators may not have considered: marketing. Case in point: when the Tangent event was launched in 1997, I paid it no mind, feeling it wasn't connected enough to the DC Universe proper--not even as Elseworlds, even. But now that the Multiverse is back, DC can declare the Tangent Universe an "official" part of the DCU and re-release the Tangent issues in a trade--and now ten years later, I've bought the first trade, hook, line, and sinker. And you know what? I'm glad I did.

Dan Jurgens, creator of the Tangent concept and one of my longtime favorite writer-artists, describes in his introduction to the first Tangent trade that Tangent was created in the spirit of Julius Schwartz's reimaging of the DC Universe at the beginning of the Silver Age of comics. This is a concept that I can get behind; the Tangent Atom is related to DC Comics' Ryan Choi (or Ray Palmer, if you prefer, or Al Pratt) the same way Barry Allen was to Jay Garrick. Just like Jay and Barry, however, the two eventually met, and I'm far more interested in the Atom, Green Lantern, and the others knowing they're soon to appear in Justice League and elsewhere. But the characters here were, for the most part, very interesting, and this more than anything else makes me willing to give Tangent a chance.

Fans of Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory storytelling will find much to love in the first Tangent volume. The five stories are interconnected much like Seven Soldiers, with Metal Men and Green Lantern filling in background from The Atom, and The Flash and Sea Devils rounding out the edges. The stories offer a nostalgic glimpse of writing sensibilities in the pre-September 11 era; the Tangent universe is full of the threat of nuclear holocaust, Soviets invasions, and AIDS, as opposed to suicide bombers and terrorists. Perhaps one of the best indications of our fears as a society at any given moment is in the different ways we imagine our dark futures.

Of the five issues collected in this first volume, indeed my favorites were The Atom and Metal Men. Atom is somewhat standard superhero fare, but I enjoyed the twist in regards to Atom's family history. Metal Men is a more involved military/espionague tale, with a gripping moreal conflict; perhaps I liked this one the most, though maybe I wouldn't have liked it as much if I hadn't first met the characters in The Atom. I also thought Sea Devils was a fun off-beat tale, even if it started a little slow (foreshadowing, though, Kurt Busiek's later work on Aquaman). The Green Lantern title has an engaging concept, with the title character narrating tales of the unexpected--and great art by J. H. Williams--though the issue itself is short on action. And I'm sure the humor of the Flash title appeals to some, though I was engaged more by the serious fare in this collection.

So while I was hesitant about Tangent's new involvement in the DCU proper, after reading this first trade I have to say I welcome it. These are interesting, smartly-written comics in a well-created universe, and I'm eager to read the additional volumes and see how Tangent ties in to Final Crisis.

[Contains full covers, introduction by Dan Jurgens, artist sketches.]

Now on to the second Ion volume (with a cameo by some Tangent characters, no less), and more!

Review: Brave and the Bold: Lords of Luck collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In short, The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck is a fantastic story, and one that realizes all the potential set forth in the DC Universe in the wake of Infinite Crisis. Written by Mark Waid with art by George Perez, Brave and the Bold offers smart super-hero team-ups that play on established continuity while still being accessible for new readers. The whole volume has a great Silver Age tone, where the heroes all know each other, like each other, and work well together to get the job done.

There's no question that Mark Waid--he of Kingdom Come and JLA: Year One--knows these characters backwards and forewards, and it shows in this book. At almost the very beginning, there's a perfect scene where Bruce Wayne gets Hal Jordan into a casino that Hal can't afford--and then Hal proceeds to take all of Bruce's chips in blackjack! Bruce's retort? "I wish Barry had lived to see you with money."

The sequence is precious, and shows a great understanding of the characters; plus, there's no question it's more than time that Batman and Green Lantern put the Parallax business behind them and became friends again. I think writers overall had been afraid prior to Infinite Crisis that if the DC heroes got along, it might make them seem boring. Instead, as Brave and the Bold shows, it just makes them seem more heroic, and makes the stories all the more enjoyable.

Additional team-ups in this volume include Batman and Blue Beetle, Green Lantern and Supergirl, Supergirl and Lobo, and Batman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, with appearances by Adam Strange. In each story, the characterization is spot-on; Hal chides himself for thinking letcherous thoughts about Supergirl, noting "Who are you, Ollie?" Batman's partnership with Blue Beetle is quietly reminiscent of his training Robin, and I appreciate the appearance by Beetle villain La Dama. Mark Waid even shows Lobo's softer side before the story is done, and of course having Waid return to the newest incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes, even briefly, is very much worth the price of admission.

There are gratuituous hints of Final Crisis in this story (as there are in Supergirl: Identity, Blue Beetle: Road Trip, and elsewhere) and I must say, I'm enjoying the run-up to DC's next big crossover. We're still early in the process trade-wise, of course, since we haven't even started the Countdown trades, but I'm reminded of the run-up to Infinite Crisis where various titles suggested "something pounding at the end of reality." Combined, all these repetitious hints add up to something of a muddle, but the sense of reading one giant story is fun nonetheless.

Of course, any story with art by George Perez automatically feels like a large-scale crossover, and the time-spanning finale of Brave and the Bold doesn't disappoint. The hardcover collection finishes with annotations by Waid; these are slim in comparison to, say, notes by Geoff Johns after Infinite Crisis or Brad Meltzer after Justice League of America: The Tornado's Path, but I do appreciate DC including these DVD-style extras.

[Contains full covers, introduction and annotations by Mark Waid.]

Waiting for a big shipment to arrive, but in the meantime I'm off now to take my first foray into the Tangent Universe, followed by the finale of the Ion miniseries. Come join!

13 on 52: Week Forty-One

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

(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 Forty-One: Didn't recognize Diana, but great Rucka series tie. Ralph's drinking Gingold, I'm sure.

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Forty-One? Post them here!

On James Robinson's Justice League

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Commentor Nhexmia's recent comments on my review of Justice League Elite crystalized some things I've been thinking about the announcement of James Robinson's new Justice League project. Now, constant readers know I'm not the sort to rant against a project before it's even been released, but Justice League, the latest "proactive super-group" in a string of proactive super-groups that also included Justice League Elite and Extreme Justice, strikes me as an unnecessary idea, something that would be far more appropriate as a miniseries than an ongoing.

We already have Batman and the Outsiders, Batman's own proactive super-group. Do Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen really need their own, too? Will Wonder Woman be starting her own as well? One thing I thought DC learned post-Zero Hour when Justice League of America, Extreme Justice, and Justice League Task Force all became JLA is that the less you dilute the wellspring, the better it sells -- hence the current reduction from four Superman titles to two. Now Justice League of America will have another partner out there, Justice League.

And the name is just like nails on a chalkboard to me. Justice League of America and ... Justice League. Not even Justice League Task Force, which is wordy but at least has distinction. I understand the nuance Dan Didio's trying to describe, that on one hand we have a Justice League of America and on the other hand we have a Justice League, but come on -- along with JLA and Justice Society of America, Justice League hardly sounds like the third corner of the triangle.

What sells me here, of course, is James Robinson, who I trust to write a paper bag and make it interesting. We have finally Batwoman in a regular title; Robinson's use of Congorilla sounds ingenious; and having James Robinson write an ongoing Green Lantern/Green Arrow title is pure heaven. So my judgment is ultimately reserved, but when I hear that DC's trying this "proactive" concept again, after they've tried it so many times before, I do begin to think maybe fewer titles is the better idea.

Avi Green also shares his thoughts on Justice League over at Four Color Media Montior

Review: All-New Atom: Future/Past trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, March 24, 2008

We've talked here sometimes about "in between" trades, those trades that collect the little stories from a series that fall between the big events. Future/Past is one of those trades, coming between the first trade and the Hunt for Ray Palmer Countdown-crossover trade; as the second new Atom trade, this down time probably comes a little too early.

To be sure, Gail Simone writes two very engaging stories here, one where the new Atom Ryan Choi visits a future Ivy Town, and another where he returns to Hong Kong to save a lost love. But neither story gives a sense that it moves the Atom series forward as a whole, and as such it feels like this trade is just biding its time.

It's the second story "Jia," where this is most apparent. When Ryan learns that his high school sweetheart Jia is being stalked by her ex-husband, he travels to Hong Kong to help; what he doesn't know is that the ex-husband is now a revenge-seeking zombie. On one hand, Simone writes a detailed, psychologically complex story of a young Ryan essentially terrorized and broken down by a bully in sequences as moving and brutal as anything you might read. On the other hand, however, the story has much to do with Ryan but little to do with the Atom, as Ryan spends much of the story without his powers and the resolution has nothing to do with the size-changing mythos. There's nothing wrong with character stories, but I think other writers have accomplished the same without the story being so disconnected.

Reading the second All-New Atom trade, Future/Past, made me realize something that bugged me in reading the new Blue Beetle trades, too. Much as I don't mind new characters taking on old names, it does seem a little silly for writers to create new alien species in the DC Universe (the Atom's The Waiting versus Blue Beetle's The Reach), when there's just so many other good, underused alien species out there. Maybe this is a minor quibble, but it gets to the kind of DC Universe inclusion-exclusion fostered by both of these books, that makes me like the concept but have trouble with the execution, if you will.

Take another example. In the first half of Future/Past, Choi goes on the run from a Linear Man using the original Atom's Time Pool. This is a great use of the Time Pool, and I was happy to see this part of the original Atom's mythos reinvented. But, the Linear Man who sparks Ryan's adventure is a green alien we've never seen before, and no mention is made of Waverider or the other Linear Men in the story. With such great Linear Men characters out there, creating one more new one just for this Atom story only pulls the new Atom's adventures farther out of continuity, instead of tying them back in.

Overall, I like the new Atom series, and completists will definitely want to pick up this volume between the first and third, but I'm hoping for a stronger showing next time around.

[Contains full covers.]

On now to tackle the shiny first Brave and the Bold hardcover. Whee!

Friday Night Fights: Long Day in the Universe!

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's not a terribly good day for the young Man of Steel.

Fried, crushed ...

... smacked ...

... and that's a knockout! Fortunately ...

... miracles do happen!

(And don't forget the speedster who's impulses are always correct, Bahlactus!)

Review: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I never had much interest in Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, and now I do. This is probably exactly what DC Comics was hoping for in their recent revitalization of any of a number of old DC properties; it helps to be coming in the ground floor with a vague idea of the Fighters and their powers but not much more, which leaves me open to learning about and accepting these new characters. In terms of story, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti's work has often been hit or miss for me (see our review of the disjointed Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven), and Uncle Sam is much the same; this story is at many times just as gratuitous and heavy-handed as it is interesting and relevant, with a good helping of Grant Morrison pseudo-science heaped in between.

The first Uncle Sam trade (as there's a sequel miniseries now and, we'll guess, a resulting second trade) acts much like a pilot episode for a new show, introducing and placing all the characters. Even as this mini-series clocks in at the unusually-long eight issues, supporting characters are continuing to be introduced right up to the end. The effect is that this never feels like more than an origin tale--a fact that would be more disappointing if we didn't know there was another series to follow.

The story itself isn't terribly complex, and mainly consists of the team attacking or being captured by the enemy, escaping or being rescued by new team members, regrouping and repeating the cycle. What makes me want to follow this series further are the cool powers and interesting personalities of the characters--Doll Man, the group leader burdened by unrequited love; the paranoia-inspiring Human Bomb; Phantom Lady, a Paris Hilton-esque socialite; and the coolest Black Condor since ... well, Ryan Kendall was pretty cool, too, but this Condor is awesome. And when the team comes together under the straight-talking Uncle Sam, it's a group that's a joy to read.

One of the tenets of this new Freedom Fighters series is its political relevance--so-called, perhaps. Indeed, the word "terrorist" is thrown around a lot, and there are themes of government corruption and Constitutional freedom, but there are hardly any real issues being debated within. The writers offer no pretension toward being fair and balanced in the story -- all the villains here are Republicans (literally) and all the heroes are Democrats; the one potentially real political debate in the story comes just before a hero betrays the team. Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters is amusingly political--political like a Jason Bourne movie more than a CNN debate.

Seven Soldiers fans should take note that, in addition to the SHADE organization that first appeared in Grant Morrison miniseries, there's also a cameo by another character (not a Solider themselves, alas) toward the end. Indeed, Morrison gets a credit at the beginning of this trade for his work plotting the book, and his influence is especially apparent in the end ("mathmagicians," indeed). That is to say, the end of Uncle Sam offers vague ties to Final Crisis, not unlike the vague ties found in Supergirl or Blue Beetle--essentially, claptrap about New Gods and Mother Boxes that probably won't line up one hundred percent with the upcoming crossover, but sounds good nonetheless.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, like Checkmate and Manhunter, is a series where the heroes kill their enemies. By the end, I think Uncle Sam has about nipped this in the bud, but killing remains present in the story. It's interesting, and not something I feel entirely comfortable with; I note that DC has on one hand let characters like the Human Bomb their enemies kill post-Infinite Crisis while at the same time retconning out things like Superman's execution of General Zod. Even as I cheer for the Freedom Fighters, I feel bad for my cheering; shouldn't our heroes be above this kind of thing--or should they? Certainly television's Heroes have no compunction against killing Sylar if they get the chance; why should the Human Bomb be different? I don't have a good answer, but it's something I keep thinking about.

[Contains full covers, Brave New World prelude story.]

On now to Gail Simone's second Atom trade; hope you'll stick around.

DC Comics Trade Paperbacks for Fall 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The DC Comics message boards and various online sources have revealed the DC Comics collections and trade paperbacks for fall 2008. Here's the big hitters:

Green Arrow And Black Canary: Family Business Hardcover

All-New Atom: Small Wonder

New Titans: Old Friends - the first Judd Winick Titans trade

Batman: Private Casebook - the next Paul Dini Detective trade

Justice League International Vol. 3 - the first JLI collection not previously released

Camelot 3000 Deluxe

Robin: Violent Tendencies - the first new Chuck Dixon release

JLA/Avengers trade paperback

Booster Gold: Blue And Gold

Teen Titans On The Clock - the first Sean McKeever release

Green Lantern Corps: Ring Quest - the first Peter Tomasi release following The Sinestro Corps War

Batman: Gotham Underground

Superman/Batman Vol. 4: Vengeance trade paperback

Superman/Batman: The Search for Kryptonite - the first Michael Green collection

Teen Titans: Year One

JLA: That Was Then, This is Now - by Roger Stern; likely JLA Classified

Green Lantern: In Brightest Day - by Broome; possibly a Silver Age collection

Superman vs. Brainiac

Fables Covers

Catwoman: Crime Pays

The Question: Epitaph for a Hero

Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Rising - the first new Jim Shooter release

Nightwing: Freefall - the first Peter Tomasi release

New Teen Titans Archive Vol. 4

The Joker: Dark Knight - I believe this is a collection of an upcoming Brian Azzerello miniseries

Blue Beetle: Endgame

Birds of Prey: Metropolis or Dush - the first Sean McKeever collection

Wonder Woman: The Circle - the first Gail Simone collection

Uncle Sam And The Freedom Fighters: Brave New World

DC Goes Ape!

JLA: Salvation Run

JSA Presents: Green Lantern - contains at least a Steven Seagle Alan Scott story

Batman And The Outsiders: The Chrysalis hardcover

Phantom Stranger: The Heart Of A Stranger - by Paul Kupperberg

Superman: The Third Kryptonian - a Kurt Busiek collection

If anyone hears about any more, let me know! And, as goes without saying ... what are you buying?

13 on 52: Week Forty

(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 Forty: Irony with Luthor as meta and human Steel; how'll Steel prove Luthor's crimes?

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

Review: Blue Beetle: Road Trip trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, March 17, 2008

I wasn't as sold as most people on the first Blue Beetle trade, favoring the early emphasis on Jaime Reyes and his family over the later gang warfare drama. But I just read the second trade, Blue Beetle: Road Trip, and actually enjoyed it so much I finished it in one sitting, likely because the emphasis does indeed return to Jaime and his family. Blue Beetle is a fantastic teen superhero comic reminiscent of the early days of Robin, and I think it's one of the best things to come out of Infinite Crisis.

Road Trip continues Jaime's quest to discover the origins of the Blue Beetle scarab; while the "road trip" itself is relatively short, the title can equally refer to the various origin theories that Jaime runs down. After learning in the last trade that the beetle scarab isn't made from magic, Jaime first tries the descendants of the first Blue Beetle, and then gets whisked to New Genesis; each offers a likely explanation for the scarab's powers, but each turns out to be a dead end. Though ultimately little is revealed about the scarab in this trade until the end, watching the theories unfold is fun, much as it was in the Damage series.

What keeps this book going, despite the lack of answers within, is the rich characterization. Indeed, there's hardly much new in this trade, as Jaime fights some of the same enemies as in the first trade, but Jaime's interaction with his friends, as well as his own growing sense of what kind of hero he wants to be, makes it worth the ride. Jaime returns a certain innocence to super-heroics that's refreshing--he won't kill, for instance, because his mother taught him better--and no less, Jaime makes it cool. From his awkward interaction with the scarab armor to his banter with his friends, the Blue Beetle cast end up being characters that the reader just wants to be around.

The series also plays very well with its tricky and subtle secrets. Nearly everyone in the supporting cast knows that Jaime is the Blue Beetle, alarmingly so, but not everyone knows that everyone else knows Jaime is the Blue Beetle. Jaime's friendship, and growing romance, with his friend Brenda is wonderfully hampered by the fact that Brenda's aunt is the villain La Dama, now charged by Checkmate with clipping Jaime's wings. In addition to the mystery of the scarab's origins, the Peacemaker character knows more about Jaime than he's telling, and even Paco's membership in a somewhat benign gang of meta-humans threatens to explode at any time. All of this keeps the story going despite the real lack of forward momentum.

It doesn't hurt, as well, that the New Genesis aspects of Blue Beetle: Road Trip contain threads of Final Crisis, giving this trade an extra shot of continuity relevance. Indeed, DC's done well tying Blue Beetle in to Final Crisis, Countdown, Teen Titans, and the Sinestro War--I tend to think Blue Beetle could survive on its own without the life support, but every bit undoubtedly helps. Blue Beetle is a teen superhero drama much in the vein of Smallville, and with the teen superhero drama having somewhat faded in the last few years (remember the days of Anima, anyone? The Ray?), Blue Beetle is a welcome throwback.

[Contains full covers.]

On now to Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, maybe some Atom, Ion, and who knows what to come. Thanks for reading!

Amazon slashes prices on DC Comics DVDs

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I've been slowly completing my collection of DC Comics DVDs, starting with the animated Superman series, and now I'm on Justice League (probably should start blogging through it, come to think ...). Anyway, I had Justice League Season Two in my Amazon cart for a while, and I just saw that they've dropped the price about $10, from $32-something to $23 something -- it's about half-off, and from what I can see, they've done the same thing with Season One.

From what I'm reading online, looks like a bunch of Amazon's DC Comics DVDs are on sale ... probably a tie in to New Frontier's release. Anyway, don't say I never pointed out deals for you!

Friday Night Fights: Kung Fu Fighting!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A room full of ninjas? "Pshaw," says the Boy Wonder.

"Bring it on!"

Robin wins with a knockout!

(And don't miss the fighter who'd never get caught in short pants, Bahlactus!)

Review: 52, Volume 3 trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

So far, the third collection of DC's weekly series 52 is my favorite (beating even the super-cool scene in time-traveler Rip Hunter's headquarters from Volume One). Certainly this edition of 52 was the most emotional, and the all-too-real prolonged death sequence of the character The Question showed well the power of a weekly real-time comics medium.

I also appreciated how this volume offered major movement for each of the character sets, from the space heroes to hero Steel's niece Natasha Irons, Booster Gold, Black Adam, and the mad scientists. Volume Two had movement, but the end -- with the dual non-cliffhangers of Renee and the Question going to Nanda Parbat for the first time, and Osiris meeting his crocodile friend Sobek -- felt like the series was meandering; likely this is a difference between reading 52 weekly versus the trades. Volume Three, however, features strong final chapters where all the protagonists face challenges, and it sets up Volume Four far better than Volume Two set up Volume Three.

Volume Three has a bunch of surprises, but enough so that they're starting to become predictable. Booster, as we now know, has been hiding in plain sight all this time, pretending to be another hero. It appeared as though Natasha was getting the better of her enemy Lex Luthor, but we learn in the end that Luthor's henchman Hannibal had replaced Natasha's friend and trapped her. We know scientist Will Magnus is pretending to be crazy when he isn't, so it's just as likely that Elongated Man Ralph Dibny hasn't really become a drunk; my guess is that it's not alcohol he's been drinking all this time.

The one drawback in 52 is that it still seems the writers are trying to do too much. There's a cameo by the Batman family in this volume that might be very compelling, if it didn't fly by so quickly. Without context, it just seems like a a cameo for cameo's sake, and it's hard to believe Bruce Wayne is really giving up the mantle of the Bat again. Similarly, the space heroes story reads pretty much like hash, with the forgettable Lady Styx villain and a confusing Green Lantern/Emerald Eye plot only serving to move the heroes from one place to another. With more pages, these might have been fleshed out; as is, they distract (but not too terribly) from the otherwise better plots.

[Contains full covers, notes and sketches after each chapter.]

52 has been a fantastic ride, and it's hard to believe it's almost over. No doubt there's still some surprises and controversy left to come, and despite some failings I'm still eager for Volume Four.

13 on 52: Week Thirty-Nine

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

(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 Thirty-Nine: Hannibal too on-nose, but great gross scene. Love turn that Luthor has powers.

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

Review: Supergirl: Identity trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, March 10, 2008

To be sure, Supergirl: Identity is a pretty twisted little book, as I think only the mind of Joe Kelly could create.

Kelly gets the unenviable job of writing a character that, in the short life of this incarnation, has been nearly effectively ruined by other equally great writers with the best of intentions. In an effort to make Supergirl, the paragon of DC Comics virtue, both relevant to modern readers and yet inoffensive to DC Comics stalwarts, Jeph Loeb and Greg Rucka wrote a Supergirl who smokes, drinks, and generally avoids super-heroics, who can at the same time blame all her bad behavior on a mysterious dark side inherited from trouble on Krypton. The result was an apologist's Supergirl, a kind of Lindsay Lohan of the superhero scene, that appealed to almost none.

Enter Joe Kelly. Over the eleven issues collected in Supergirl: Identity, Kelly quite effectively breaks down this unworkable Supergirl character and then builds her back up, such that the next writer might start fresh free of the well-meaning Supergirl wreckage. Over the first few issues, Supergirl proceeds to fail in about every aspect of her life, leading her to "hit bottom"; from there, the new Supergirl fights her Golden Age counterpart in a sequence that's supposed to make us root for the new character and integrate her into modern reader's hearts. The tricks Kelly uses are pretty much textbook rebuild-a-new-character writing tropes, but this start-all-over-again approach was likely what was necessary given the unusable state Supergirl was in.

To be sure, Kelly uses about every "teen girl drama" cliche he can find in order to make his way through this story. Supergirl's team-up with the Outsiders is the best of the bunch, as Supergirl is faced with an Outsiders-style moral dilemma that she just can't work around. The preceding story, however, has Supergirl going to high school, only to fall in with the popular kids and then feel bad about teasing another girl; the following story has Supergirl falling in love with the Titan Power Boy, only to have him turn out to be a controlling stalker who beats her. The brushstrokes of "special episode of Blossom" here are especially thick.

Two things redeem this trade, and the first is my sense that Kelly understands the cliches he's using, and uses them almost ironically; in short, Supergirl: Identity is just so wrong, it's right. Much of the book turns on the new Captain Boomerang being in love with Supergirl, despite that he out-ages her, a fact Kelly reminds us, almost gleefully, at nearly every turn. In addition to Supergirl's clubbing, carousing, and other "bad super-hero" activity, the whole thing is richly perverse, with Kelly intent at every turn on making us think, "I can't believe Supergirl did that." In the right frame of mind, it's a book that's shockingly satisfying.

Let me spoil the other thing that makes this trade, and that's the gigantic Final Crisis tie that gets dropped in with a thud at the end. I'm under no illusions that any of this will actually matter come Final Crisis time; like the various OMAC attacks before Infinite Crisis, the Final Crisis material here is all character cameos and vague double-speak that could refer to anything when Final Crisis finally happens. At the same time, I'm still getting a kick out of seeing Crisis on Infinite Earths refugees stomping around the DC Universe proper, and at least the Final Crisis tie gives this book more relevance than, say, the most recent Catwoman trades that I wasn't as fond of.

[Contains full covers.]

So if you don't mind a non-traditional, perhaps tongue-in-cheek take on Supergirl, then Identity might be worth picking up, at least for the completists among us. The next team coming on Supergirl includes Kelley Puckett, who's work on Batgirl was bar none, and my guess is that'll be when this newest incarnation of Supergirl finally gets on track.

Thanks for reading!

More Saturday morning cartoon thoughts ...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Random Saturday morning cartoon thoughts ...
  • Separate Lightning Lad's prosthetic hand from the rest of him, and it kind of looks like Jaime's Reyes' Blue Beetle armor hand ...
  • How mad are the "One More Day" haters that Mary Jane Watson isn't in Spectacular Spider-Man?
  • And Gwen Stacey? That's so Chloe Sullivan

Haven't watched Batman: Lost Heroes yet, but more oh-so-witty commentary as it breaks.

And the Splat! winner is ...

Friday, March 07, 2008

The winner of Collected Editions' Splat! The Graphic Novel Symposium giveaway is ... Ray Cornwall!

Congratulations, Ray -- he'll be attending Splat! The Graphic Novel Symposium in New York a week from Saturday. Thanks to everyone who entered! If Ray or anyone else attending would like to write a few paragraphs after the symposium to share with Collected Editions readers, just send me an email.

Giving away stuff is fun! If you have something graphic novel or trade paperback-related that you'd like to give away through Collected Editions, or if you'd like to sponsor a review or have your graphic novel reviewed, get in touch using the email address on the sidebar.

More reviews coming Monday. Thanks again!

PS Ray, I'll be in touch this weekend with the details.

Review: Catwoman: It's Only a Movie trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I just finished reading Catwoman: It's Only a Movie, and if it weren't for the fact that I've already pre-ordered the next volume, Catwoman: Catwoman's Dead, Catwoman would be bumped with Hawkgirl to my wish list--that is, comics I won't spare the money to purchase myself.

As with Catwoman: The Replacements, it's not as though writer Will Pfeifer is doing a terrible job. His Catwoman, at least, remains a morally conflicted anti-hero, and Pfeifer writes believable, spot-on dialogue. There's even a bit in the middle, when the father of Catwoman's baby is revealed, that's as emotionally harrowing as anything the Ed Brubaker-written Catwoman had to offer.

But around that interesting middle section are a bunch of stories that just feel flat. The first part involves the villain Film Freak, whose one-note film obsession gets far too much screen time (Pfeifer himself is a film guru, and I appreciate the authenticity, but in the book it feels like trivia for trivia's sake). Following it is a heist story that's good, but contains enough science-fiction elements that it doesn't feel like a hard-boiled Catwoman crime story (letting alone when Pfeifer sends Catwoman up against a giant ape). It's a "heist of the month" story, essentially, that could star any of a number of anti-heroes; there's little about it that makes it feel distinctly like Catwoman.

Pfeifer, to his credit, does offer believable reasons why Catwoman must work on both sides of the law. With her friend Holly falsely accused of a crime by corrupt police, and Selina herself to blame for the crime, she momentarily considers seeking help from Oracle before instead turning to the Calculator. This choice of two computer gods, one good and one evil, perfectly positions Catwoman in the middle, and proves Pfeifer has a good handle on the character. Sadly, this is not nearly enough to add relevance to Pfeifer's story, but truly it's the plot, and not the writing, that's to blame.

As before, the art team of David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez present detailed art that avoids the common female-heroine trap of being over-sexualized. I also appreciate that the art team has drawn every issue of the entire past two trades, and it looks like they may be on an unbroken run; in this age of shifting art teams, this loyalty to the title is gratifying.

Adam Hughes's covers, on the other hand ... I know Hughes is a comics legend, and certainly he draws miles better than my stick figures, but his over-the-top cheesecake covers are just silly. Are we really to believe Selina and Holly ran away from the police with their costumes zipped down and their breasts popping up? Does DC seriously believe anyone purchases a Catwoman comic solely based on Hughes's flesh-tease covers? I appreciate the artistry here, but I can't help detect a hint of ridiculousness.

[Contains full covers.]

So all-in-all, no offense to Will Pfeifer, who's writing I've liked before, but not a great Catwoman experience. And trade paperbacks, with the rise of hardcovers, have just become too expensive lately to purchase books that don't excite or otherwise tie into what else I'm reading--though with the fourth new Catwoman volume to tie into Salvation Run, we'll have to re-examine things then. Anyway, thanks for reading, and stop back again for more reviews!

Free registration to Splat! The Graphic Novel Symposium

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Just a reminder that Collected Editions is giving away a free registration to Splat! The Graphic Novel Symposium, March 15 in New York -- a $125 value! Just send an email to collectededitions at yahoo d-o-t com with the subject "Splat!," and we'll announce the winner on Friday. If you would prefer your name not be announced, that's fine, too.

Good luck!

13 on 52: Week Thirty-Eight

(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 Thirty-Eight: Question dies while Natasha returns. Ralph, Renee reborn at Nanda Parbat? Great issue.

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

Attend Splat! The Graphic Novel Symposium -- Free!

Monday, March 03, 2008

I heard the other day about a event coming up that sounds really interesting -- Splat! A Graphic Novel Symposium will be held Saturday, March 15 in New York.

Apparently this is a day-long seminar for graphic novel afficionados and aspiring graphic novelists. The workshops sound great -- from basic storytelling, to more intensive writing topics like Comic Deconstruction and Place in the Graphic Novel. Guests include a whole bunch of indie graphic novelists, Scott McCloud, Brian Wood, and Marvel Submissions Editor CB Cebulski.

I'm thrilled to hear about this workshop -- just another way that graphic novels and trade paperbacks are starting to move in to the mainstream. If you're in the New York area, I strongly encourage you to support this event.


Collected Editions is giving away one free pass to Splat! That's a $125 value for one lucky Collected Editions reader ... absolutely free! All you have to do is send an email to the Collected Editions email address (listed in the About Me section of our sidebar) with the subject "Splat!" between now and Thursday, March 6 at noon EST, and we'll choose a random winner to be announced on Friday. It's that simple!

Pass it on ... somebody's going to Splat! The Graphic Novel Symposium!

(Not responsible for lost or misdirected emails, etc. Have fun and love one another, no?)

Review: Catwoman: The Replacements trade paperback (DC Comics)

I liked writer Will Pfeifer's work on Captain Atom: Armageddon and H-E-R-O, but he's hardly in the same league as Ed Brubaker, especially when it comes to Catwoman. Brubaker, of course, redefined Catwoman for a new generation, and while Pfeifer's portrayal of Selina Kyle in Catwoman: The Replacements certainly stays in line with Brubaker's, the plot just doesn't measure as high.

The Replacements is the first Catwoman trade since Catwoman: Wild Ride, with a space of twenty-five issues in between, and some of my difficulties with the story stem from not being quite sure what's going on. There's intentional One Year Later confusion here, in that Selina's given birth to a baby in the missing year, and I'm OK with that, but there are any of a number of other plots--Selina having potentially killed Black Mask, the villain Film Freak believing he once killed Selina, something having to do with Slam Bradley's son--that are referenced but not explained here, and it makes for a bumpy, jarring reading experience.

Second, much about The Replacements is terribly predictable. Once she learns she's pregnant, Selina passes the role of Catwoman onto her friend Holly; under the common rubric of "hero abandons role but must don it again," Holly begins to make mistakes, forcing Selina to question her decision. Zatanna makes an appearance toward the end, and I hope Pfeifer isn't building toward Selina intentionally mind-wiping her own memories of her baby; as with Black Canary adopting a child in Birds of Prey, I fear this plot because making a formly free-wheeling hero a parent is a change that never sticks, and the removal of said child from the story is always heavy-handed. I just don't believe Pfeifer intends for Selina to really give up her role as Catwoman, and as such the story doesn't hold much suspense. Add to this the Film Freak and Angle Man villains, neither nearly as scary as Black Mask, and this hardly makes for the most compelling Catwoman read.

To his credit, however, Pfeifer does a great job with Selina's determined, conflicted voice, and within the story I certainly believe Selina believes she's given up the Catwoman role, even if I don't believe Pfeifer. He similarly writes Catwoman stalwarts Holly Robinson and Slam Bradley with equal aplomb. The danger with a title like Catwoman is that the writer will fill the story with gratuitous cheesecake, but Pfeifer's story is respectful and thoughtful, if not terribly groundbreaking.

In terms of presentation, artist David Lopez offers excellent work that also avoids being too sexualized; his expressive figures very often resemble the art of Frank Quietly. (The same can't be said for cover artist Adam Hughes, who's Zatanna on the final cover, with breasts pushed up to her neck, looks simply ridiculous.) And I did appreciate that, despite this trade being so far removed from the earlier Catwoman trades, DC's collections department designed this book to look like those, giving Catwoman: The Replacements a familiar feel overall.

[Contains full covers.]

So it wasn't that I didn't like Catwoman: The Replacements, which might be good if it's the first Catwoman volume you've read; I just didn't think it stacked up. Still, I'm on to Catwoman: It's Only a Movie now, and we'll see how the second part of this tale works out. Join us next time for more!