13 on 52: Week Forty-Six

Wednesday, April 30, 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-Six: Glad villains show smarts (and Cale survives). Note Final Crisis mention: Darkseid is?

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

Review: Bizarre New World: Population Explosion graphic novel (Ape Entertainment)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Plenty of comic books start with the hero discovering the ability to fly. Skip Martin's Bizarre New World is unique, however, in that instead of putting on a cape and fighting crime, Martin's protagonist Paul Krutcher deals with the more mundane aspects of flight -- what his co-workers will think, how to avoid getting struck by lightning, and how to contend with his jealousy when someone else announces they could fly before Paul could. With spinner racks full of superhero slugfests, Bizarre New World (and it's new graphic novel sequel, Population Explosion) is a comic book with nary a punch thrown, one that dares to examine the practicalities of super-powers -- and in that way, some of the majesty that makes superheroes so compelling -- without the mindless violence that sometimes weighs comic books down.

Population Explosion picks up at the end of the first Bizarre New World series, as Paul barely has time to register his jealousy of fellow flyer Matthew before the rest of the world develops flying powers as well. A world-wide miracle quickly turns to chaos as budding flyers find themselves in dangerous situations. Paul receives a desperate voicemail from his son, sending him on a cross- country rescue mission -- but flying at top speeds turns out to be harder than it looks.

The best part of both of Skip Martin's Bizarre New World tales is that Martin just "gets" the way normal people would act in extraordinary situations. In the afterword, Martin dismisses the moment that people begin peeing from the sky as a "shameless urine joke," but it's an unexpectedly real moment, as is the image of the background character who's already wearing a super-hero T-shirt for just this occasion. One can't help, as well, to fall in love with Paul, who's tendency to fall asleep at work is balanced by his concern for how to get footprints off his ceiling, and his love for and late-night lightsaber duels with his young son.

If the first Bizarre New World's intention was to look at how one man would deal an extraordinary moment, Population Explosion examines how we as a society deal with unexpected world-wide events. The crux of Population Explosion is a ten-page conversation between Paul and the waitress Marie -- who's still watching her restaurant after everyone else takes to the air -- where Marie compares the flight development to September 11. Marie recalls wondering on September 11 when the first television movie would be made, a thought later borne out; the point she and Martin are making is both how disengaged collective society has become from the emotion of the moment, and also how cynical the individual has become in expecting that disengagement.

It's a point that's both relevant to the issues of the day -- Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, an election that's become more media ratings circus than democracy -- and also to the superhero comic book genre. We've become so used to a flying man on the cover of our comics that we've stopped being awestruck by the possibility of a flying man, a point similarly made in early 2000s Superman comics. By offering a fantasy comic book that doesn't degenerate into fight scenes, Martin reimbues super-powers with some of their original grandeur, and avoids the somewhat tired paths travelled by other "normal man" stories like Heroes and others.

As a graphic novel, Population Explosion is an interesting, thoughtful tale, but Martin's talent is obviously in his dialogue, and at times the action suffers. There's a four-page sequence of Paul leaving the city, accompanied by gripping radio narration of the tragedies happening elsewhere in the world; while this would have been gruesome, it might have been better to see these scenes rather than just hear about them, or even to have Paul face more peril of his own. At times it's a bit too easy to see the writer pulling the strings -- Paul decries how his phone "always" goes to voicemail when he misses the frantic call from his son -- though Martin makes up for it with the depth of the characters.

Compared to other graphic novels out there, the $6.95 price for Bizarre New World: Population Explosion seems a steal, and the ways in which Skip Martin's Bizarre New World differentiates itself from your everday comic book deserves a look. For more information, visit the official website, www.bizarrenewworld.com.

On now to reviews of the Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibuses, and more.  Stay tuned!

Review: Manhunter: Unleashed trade paperback (DC Comics)

Friday, April 25, 2008

[Contains spoilers for Manhunter: Unleashed]

Manhunter: Unleased offers a more comprehensive story than that of the looser preceeding volume, Manhunter: Origins, as attorney Kate Spencer must defend Wonder Woman from new charges regarding her killing of Maxwell Lord. This is an intriguing premise, and I enjoyed this straightforward superhero law drama far more than Kate's previous DEO-mandated defense of Dr. Psycho. Though the direction of the story isn't always clear--likely due to behind-the-scenes editorial issues--there are any of a number of great moments in this newest collection of the award-winning series.

In the course of Unleased, Kate Spencer meets DC Comic's Big Three, and I enjoyed writer Marc Andreyko's continued placing of Kate squarely in the middle of the DC Universe. In a way, Kate represents aspects of all three of the heroes: she calls on Superman, the heart of the DCU, to bail out Wonder Woman when the Amazon won't sacrifice Superman to save herself; similarly, Kate's intimidating methods often rival the Dark Knight's own. But one of the best parts of this story was Wonder Woman's immediate acceptance of Manhunter--I don't necessarily accept the comparison that Wonder Woman's killing of Maxwell Lord (to immediately save Superman) is like Manhunter's murder of Copperhead (as he's escaping), but the new friendship between these characters, after all the animosity of the pre-Infinite Crisis era, is nice to see.

Let me spoil this story by saying it turns out Circe is the main bad guy--though whether Circe is behind the renewed prosecution of Wonder Woman, or just behind the surprise appearance by a Blue Beetle look-alike, is never quite clear. Indeed, there's a cut scene about half-way through this trade where a shadowy villain--who's not Circe--swears to take revenge on Wonder Woman for her murder of Maxwell Lord. What's going on here is not clear, unless the stilted post-Infinite Crisis restart of Wonder Woman ultimately required a change in the culprit half-way through. Maybe this will play out later in the Wonder Woman title, but I wish we'd had more of a sense of the conclusion here in Manhunter.

Over the course of Unleashed, Andreyko sends the rest of the Manhunter supporting cast--Cameron Chase, Dylan Battles, and Manhunter Mark Shaw--out on separate adventures. I'm not familiar enough with the Chase story to really get the full weight of Cameron facing off against the Trapp villain that killed her father, though I imagine Chase fans enjoyed seeing her back in Gotham City. Even better, however, was the suggestion that Mark Shaw might become the new Azrael, even perhaps taking on Jean Paul Valley's old costume. I didn't realize until now how much Manhunter lore writer Dennis O'Neill put into the Azrael series, but with all the connections Andreyko is making, I may vey well have to go back and read those books again.

Unleashed ends on a high note, with Kate's friends and family gathered to celebrate her courtroom victory. It's a strangely happy moment in a book with such a hard-luck hero, and as with the end of Manhunter: Trial by Fire, I feel good for Kate even as I know that any coming misfortune will just make for interesting reading later on. Manhunter is a strange book--as dark as Checkmate and others, but with a cast that seems to love and enjoy one another more than in any other comic book out there. It makes for great but sometimes disarming reading--we enjoy the good times even as we long for the controversy that the bad times will bring.

Manhunter remains a great, challenging comic book, and I encourage again all the Collected Editions readers to give it a try. And let me not forget to mention the fantastic art by Javier Pina throughout the first four volumes; he draws not only the definitive Kate Spencer, but also a beautiful, realistic Wonder Woman in this trade.

[Contains full covers.]

Thought we might delve back into Superman pretty soon, but before we get there, how 'bout a couple volumes of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus?

13 on 52: Week Forty-Five

Wednesday, April 23, 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-Five: Impressive how Adam right/wrong, heroes have no choice. 52 like Greek tragedy.

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

Review: Manhunter: Origins trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Manhunter: Origins is a story of beginnings and ending, though not necessarily in that order. The trade, which encompasses stories both before and after DC's One Year Later event, starts with a multi-part story of Manhunter Kate Spencer rescuing her son and ex-husband from a team of villains, wrapping up many long-running Manhunter plotlines; the trade ends with a new story about Kate as the defense attorney for Dr. Psycho, which continues to the next volume. The effect is a book that's not as self-contained as, say, one of Geoff Johns' Teen Titans trades, though this is explained in part by Manhunter's more erratic publishing schedule. Even so, Manhunter remains an intelligent, challenging read, with a strong supporting cast that shines especially in the final pages.

The biggest revelation in Origins is that Kate Spencer is the grand-daugher of Phantom Woman Sandra Knight and the All-Star Squadron's Iron Monroe. Certainly writer Marc Andreyko tying Kate Spencer to Golden Age characters, just as he tied her to the Manhunter legacy in the last trade, helps to give this Manhunter a "place" in the DC Universe; at the same time, it's strange how this origin matches so closely a former potential origin of Justice Society member Damage--letting alone the current DCU difficulty of a new Phantom Lady, by the last name of Knight, completely unrelated to Kate and Sandra. Additionally, by relating Kate and Sandra, Andreyko makes Kate a second or third cousin to fan-favorite Starman Jack Knight; just like bringing Cameron Chase into Manhunter, certainly the potential for a Jack Knight appearance can't hurt.

Post-One Year Later, Andreyko recasts Kate Spencer--formerly a prosecutor who might hunt villains who escape justice--as a defense attorney for those same villains. In the beginning, Kate's professional and superheroic goals aligned in stopping the bad guys; now, if Kate wants to avoid having to hunt a villain, she must lose her own court cases. This is complicated by Kate's new role as an operative for the DEO, and this was actually the change I liked least; Kate defends Dr. Psycho in the second story not because it's her job, but because of the DEO's secret machinations. I'd like at some point to see Kate have to defend a villain because she's legally assigned to, and then have to face the moral conflict without the cloak-and-dagger aspect; even despite that this is a super-hero book, the DEO tie makes Manhunter feel slightly unbelievable to me.

My favorite part of Manhunter was the four issues in which Kate must save her family from returning villains Phobia and Dr. Moon, and her estranged father. This was a personal crisis for Kate that, unlike Ryan Choi's return home in Atom: Future/Past, also impacted her life as Manhunter, and I was riveted the entire time. This was a nail-biting story that I thought would end much tragically than it did, with Kate's ex-husband being killed; instead, we learn in the end that Kate was unknowingly pregnant and had a miscarriage. The effect this will have on Kate One Year Later has not yet been entirely explored, but that Kate's husband is now remarried with a new baby, while Kate's son both knows she's Manhunter and has begun developing super-powers, both hold great story potential for the next volume.

Andreyko begins this trade with three short stories in one issue, that explore the origins of Kate's costume. Each of these stories are predictably dark, as if the pieces of the uniform contribute to Kate's dark perspective. Her tunic is that of a deceased Darkstar, later accidentally used in a murder; the gloves are left from the Azrael Batman, and the story of Mark Shaw's Manhunter staff reveals duplicity by Sarge Steel. Here again Andreyko ties Manhunter to some fan-favorite heroes; if any writer might resurrect either the Darkstars or Azrael, certainly Andreko could do a fine job.

[Contains full covers, character bios, What Came Before page.]

On now to the final Manhunter trade -- for now, that is, as additional issues of Manhunter have very recently been announced. From there, maybe a look at the Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibuses, and then ... Superman!

Review: Manhunter: Trial by Fire trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Collected Editions readers--why aren't you reading Marc Andreko's Manhunter? Diverse characters; great writing; sharp, consistent art--all the things Collected Editions supports. There's been some trade paperbacks that we've been on the fence about before, but Manhunter isn't one of them--this is the series you should be reading!

Manhunter: Trial by Fire is, admittedly, something of a departure from Street Justice. Part of twisted attraction of Manhunter is hero Kate Spencer's self-destructive tendencies, and in Trial by Fire we actually see Kate starting to turn her life around. The persecution Kate fears from other super-heroes never manifests, Kate manages a couple victories against big-time super-villains, and even Kate's relationship with her ex-husband and son seems to be on the mend. It's good for Kate, sure, but it does rob the story of some of its former drama, even as we know these good things in Kate's life are only the precursor of worse to come.

Instead, Andreko fills this "between time" in Kate's story with greater ties to the DC Universe. Nearly everyone who was ever called Manhunter gets a mention in this book, and Andreko offers some creative retroactive continuity that ties all the Manhunters (even the supernatural Chase Lawler) into the story of the most famous Manhunter, Mark Shaw, and positions Kate Spencer as his successor. Andreko also brings in to great appeal Cameron Chase of the late, lamented Chase series, figuring perhaps that a good cult-hit comics series deserves a cult-hit comics series supporting cast.

There's a strangely nostalgic feel to the Infinite Crisis tie-ins in this book. The first few chapters deal with a string of cookie-cutter villains in a vague tie to Villains United; similarly, the last half features a random OMAC attack that suggests ties between Maxwell Lord's Checkmate and the DEO. Infinite Crisis was not so long ago, really, to feel like a long way away, but the "pick a Countdown miniseries to tie-in to" era was a special time nonetheless.

My hope for the next Manhunter trade, in addition to more of Kate Spencer's trademark vim and vinegar, is that we begin to see some of the consequences of Kate's super-heroic actions. So far Kate's been lucky in that she's only been brought to kill Copperhead and the Monocle, and the one super-hero she's met, Firehawk, hasn't much cared. Kate has killed and essentially gotten away with it, and I think that contributed to the more free-wheeling (and more standard super-heroic) feel of this volume. In the next, hopefully the moral weight of Kate's decisions is more to the forefront.

[Contains full covers]

We continue reading the Manhunter trades with Manhunter: Origins, coming up next. Thanks!

13 on 52: Week Forty-Four

Wednesday, April 16, 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-Four: Some Monster Society! Only Isis's change could make Adam crazy. Very effective issue.

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

DC Comics Solicitations for July 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Oh, my Collected Editioners! Did I ever make the mistake of bypassing the DC Comics July 2008 solicitations last night, thinking "I'll just read them tomorrow." Well, consider me shocked! Invasion! Millennium! We had speculated about these here, but now it's official -- DC's two big 1980s crossovers will be collected in August.

Other hot spots include the Supergirl: Beyond Good and Evil, which includes that yet-uncollected story from Action Comics #850; Dr. Fate, Lord Havok, and Suicide Squad; and All-Star Superman trade paperback (I'm still holding out for the Absolute Edition).

There's also Batman: The Black Glove hardcover, the next Grant Morrison Batman collection that fills in missing issues between Batman and Son and The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul; the first Gail Simone Wonder Woman hardcover; and a ten-issue hardcover Gotham Central collection, which covers both In the Line of Duty and Half a Life. The real trick on these Gotham Central hardcovers will be to see whether they collect the missing issues from the Gotham Central trades; if that's the thing, they'll be invaluable.

So was July 2008 a hit or miss for you? What trades will be on your buy list?

Review: Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, April 14, 2008

[Contains spoilers for Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman?]

Allan Heinberg's Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman? is a story of the Amazonian Princess written as a summer movie blockbuster -- action-packed, pretty to look at, but devoid of any truly brain-taxing content. Heinberg writes an intelligent Wonder Woman comic without any cringe-worthy lines or silly situations, but there's nothing necessarily new or ground-breaking in this story, short of the changes Heinberg (and, one guesses, the DC Comics editorial staff) makes to Wonder Woman overall. These changes are both significant and cautiously welcome, though I might've liked to see them used to greater effect in this story.

To tackle the end first, Heinberg makes Wonder Woman human when she's in her secret identity of Diana Prince, spy for the Department of Metahuman Affairs. I actually think this change has a lot of potential; in addition to returning the Silver Age super-spy intrigue to Wonder Woman, Heinberg makes those super-spy adventures count for something because Diana can be hurt in the process. It's too bad that Heinberg makes these changes at the end of the story, and also that he sidelines Diana Prince (in favor of Wonder Woman) for most of the tale; it's the Diana Prince persona that's new and different, and that I would have liked to see more of.

Of course, when you start to pick apart these developments for Wonder Woman, they fall apart--what, we can ask, makes Wonder Woman be Wonder Woman? Does she have to be wearing her costume to have her powers? Could she transform at will while, say, standing next to her partner Nemesis, or does she have to have room to spin a la the television series? And this is all setting aside the unspoken implication that Batman's always Batman, Superman's always Superman, but Wonder Woman only gets to be Wonder Woman half the time. These critiques go unresolved here, but I'd be curious to see another writer address them in the future.

Heinberg's plot itself is something of a Hush tale in five issues, with nearly Wonder Woman's entire rogues gallery appearing and attacking her in the end. The goal here is to inject some super-heroics back into the Wonder Woman series, which even at some of its best moments has often been a wordy, high-falutin' gods and monsters book. The Diana Prince persona is perhaps meant to humanize the title's main character and in that way give the reader someone to relate to; the criticism within Infinite Crisis that Ambassador Diana was out of touch with her public very likely also applied to the reading public, and super-spy Diana is apparently more the common ground.

Certainly this new paradigm for Wonder Woman is very heavily influenced by the 1970s television series. We've looked at how the New Earth Batman and Superman now more closely resemble wider-recognized versions of their characters (Superman, especially, regaining his childhood relationship with the Legion of Super-Heroes), and I guess a nostalgic slant to Wonder Woman is better than redesigning the character a la the new Aquaman. I don't really believe that a Lynda Carter mileu, thirty years later, is what the Wonder Woman comic has really been lacking all this time, but it's a fun take on Wonder Woman for the time being.

[Contains full covers, introduction]

With Wonder Woman re-established, we turn now to Manhunter (where Wonder Woman makes an appearance in the fourth volume. See how these things work out?).

Review: Batman: Death in the City trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

[This review contains spoilers for Batman: Death in the City.]

Paul Dini knocks it out of the park again with Batman: Death in the City, the second volume in his continuing run on Detective Comics.

I'd venture that no one else in comics, at least not in the DC Universe, is doing what Dini is doing right now on Detective: a series of done-in-one (or two) stories that are continuity-rich enough both within itself and with the DCU as a whole to appeal to regular fans, but self-contained enough that any casual reader could pick them up. I would defy other writers to try the same with additional DC characters -- a series with the same sensibilities as Detective, starring Superman, would be nothing less than awesome.

As with Dini's previous volume, Batman: Detective, Death in the City closes with a Joker story, and it's the most powerful of the lot. Not only does Dini easily capture the Joker's horrifying, violent nature, but he also ties up well a loose end between Batman and the magician Zatanna.

In our post-Infinite Crisis era of the kinder, gentler Batman, the Dark Knight's forgiveness of Zatanna for the events of Identity Crisis might simply be implied. Dini, however, addresses the issue head-on, taking Batman and Zatanna through a couple of almost-romantic sequences that bring to the DC Universe the childhood friendship between Bruce Wayne and the magician, previously shown in the animated Batman cartoons. Though the terms of Batman's forgiveness seem a little easy -- he was mad at Zatanna, but then she gets shot by the Joker and Batman realizes life's too short -- I like the relationship between these two characters, and I'm glad Dini was able to (re-)establish it.

The other stories in Death in the City range from whodunits similar to those in Detective, to more straightforward tales of Batman and his villains, as with the stories about the new Ventriloquist and Harley Quinn. I wasn't happy that the Ventriloquist got killed off so soon after Infinite Crisis (letting alone the KGBeast!) as I have trouble believing that DC will leave dead the most recognizable iteration of this Batman villain, but I am curious about Scarface's new "partner." Dini plays up some of the supernatural aspects of Scarface, and it's interesting to think that the new Ventriloquist may not be the one in control.

Later, Dini deals with a reformed Harley Quinn -- this series already spotlights a reformed Riddler, and while the stories are interesting, I'm again skeptical that the changes made here will last; in that way I might prefer to see Batman match wits with the Riddler and Harley Quinn than team-up with them, but the stories are entertaining nonetheless.

Death in the City improves on a couple rough spots found in Detective. For one, the book includes just a couple artists, balancing out the main stories by Don Kramer, and the depiction of the characters is far more consistent than in Detective. For another, while Dini still mainly just plays with a small corner of the Batman universe, there's a great amount of continuity between the stories, with the Riddler and the new Ventriloquist appearing in multiple episodes. Dini also brings back the magician Ivar Loxias and Bruce Wayne's friend Matthew Atkins, providing nice ties to the first volume.

[Contains full covers.]

I've finally completed my collection of Marc Andreyko's Manhunter trade paperbacks (Manhunter fans, unite!), so I'm going to turn there next, with a stopover first for Allen Heinberg's Wonder Woman hardcover. See you then!

13 on 52: Week Forty-Three

Wednesday, April 09, 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-Three: Wow. Terrific Jurgens art. Sobek story much better. Excellent creepiness to Marvels, Styx.

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

Review: Green Arrow: The Road to Jericho trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 07, 2008

I wouldn't have believed it, but it's true: in Green Arrow: Road to Jericho, Judd Winick made me believe Green Arrow should marry Black Canary.

My reaction, upon hearing news of their nuptials, was probably much the same as most. Green Arrow is a well-meaning but womanizing character who's never treated Black Canary right, even after his death and resurrection; Black Canary is an oft-maligned heroine finally moving past Green Arrow and coming in to her own -- and now writer Judd Winick is making what seems like a fairly regressive move by having the two marry. How on Earth could this possibly work?

It works.

In a style similar to Winick's One Year Later tale Outsiders: Pay as You Go, Winick begins by flashing back to Green Arrow's actions during the missing year -- that is, waking up on a desert island after being sorely beaten by the villain Merlyn; training with his partners for a few months; and running for mayor of Star City. In and of itself, this is a mildly interesting -- if not, as with Outsiders, slightly redundant -- look back at Green Arrow's time during 52.

It's only later that the reader understands that Green Arrow's lack of female companionship during the missing year is not for lack of opportunity, but for lack of interest -- the reborn Oliver Queen is now determined to "save himself" (as he puts it) for Dinah Lance. All of this is revealed in a sweet (if over the top. 40 hours, really?) sequence where Dinah comes to realize that Oliver is a changed man, and thus now deserving of her love.

What Winick's done is what we used to call in the old country "a neat trick" -- "the changed man" gambit. Given that, after Green Arrow's death and resurrection, even Winick himself wrote a plotline where Oliver cheated on Dinah, there was no way this Green Arrow could ever marry this Black Canary, Winick was left with no choice but to kill Green Arrow again. Not literally, of course (even comics fans have their limits), but figuratively through Green Arrow's One Year Later rebirth, Oliver could return "a changed man," one suddenly deserving of Dinah.

It's flimsy, to be sure. Green Arrow ends up with all of the character growth in only about half the development time, but Winick includes enough sentimental scenes between the two to be convincing. "How," one might ask, "can Black Canary marry Green Arrow?" "Well," comes the reply, "he's a changed man."

I was, I'd mention, slightly less impressed with Winick's other changes to Green Arrow. After this year away, Green Arrow is now a master martial artist. I guess one can never have too many of those, but between Batman, Black Canary, and the like, it just doesn't seem "Green Arrow-ish" -- he's never been a martial arts kind of guy. Ditto for the giant sword Winick's saddled Oliver with; supposedly Robin Hood carried a sword, too, but to me it suggests that maybe Green Arrow's arrows aren't enough. If I want swords, I think, I'd read something with Katana in it; Green Arrow should carry arrows.

The second half of Road to Jericho deals with Green Arrow's battle with -- at various points -- Brick, the Red Hood, Merlyn, Constantine Drakon, and Deathstroke. It's a lot of villains, and the plot -- one villain covering for the next covering for a third -- is a little wobbly; I quit trying to make sense of it about half-way through and just enjoyed the ride.

And between the do-or-die action, the Green Arrow/Black Canary romance, some DCU cameos and a surprise ending, it is an entertaining ride. Though there's some good political commentary, this a mostly thinking-lite trade, but an entertaining one nonetheless. This is not the Green Arrow title at its highest point, but it does seem a fitting end to the series (picked up, of course, in the new Green Arrow/Black Canary series).

[Contains full covers.]

On back now to the Bat-verse for a bit, and then we'll see what else is waiting for us on the collections shelf.

Review: Ion Volume 2: The Dying Flame trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

So here's the good, the bad, and the ugly on the second volume of Ion: The Dying Flame. The good is that if you're a fan of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner as written by Ron Marz, this is pages and pages of Kyle Rayner written by Ron Marz, and the nostalgia factor is cause enough for celebration and worth the price of admission alone.

The bad, however, is that this collection (and the whole miniseries, really) is just blatantly fodder of any of a number of crossovers, not in the least of which are Countdown, Final Crisis itself, and Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War, at least. And the ugly is that this is just a sad, sad story with an emotional ending -- maybe that means it's good, because the story is moving -- but fans of Kyle Rayner won't finish this book thinking it was a "feel good" tale.

Ron Marz knows Kyle Rayner, but one wonders if he knows Kyle Rayner just a little too well. That is, Marz knows Kyle warts and all (in fact, he wrote most of those warts), and there's an underlying examination in both the Ion volumes of Kyle's difficult relationships -- with Alex DeWitt, with Donna Troy, with Jade -- all of which ended (at least temporarily) with his loved ones' deaths.

Marz's emphasis on this seems to border nearly on the extreme. Kyle's never been happy-go-lucky, but neither has his character ever been doom-and-gloom; there are important story reasons (that is, Sinestro Corps) why Marz writes Kyle this way, but still the dark tone of this volume surprised me. Now, there is a certain amount of good irony in Kyle having the powerful Green Lantern ring but not being able to solve his own personal problems, in a Peter-Parker-granted-spider-powers kind of way, and that's appealing in a super-hero tale. In this case, Kyle's problems ultimately outweigh any joy that comes from being a Green Lantern.

As I mentioned in my review of Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck, I'm actually enjoying very much the burgeoning hints of Final Crisis found in this Ion volume and elsewhere. Certainly I know less about Final Crisis than I did about Infinite Crisis around the same time, and part of my enjoyment might be basic surprise. But it also feels like there's a greater sense of a shared universe in this run-up to Final Crisis; it was a thrill when Donna Troy talks in this volume about events taking place in Nightwing: Love and War and Supergirl: Identity that I just read -- these are three very different trades, but it's fun to see how they're all connected.

I read the first Tangent Universe trade paperback before I read the second Ion volume, since I knew some of the characters from the former would end up in the latter; Ron Marz, I should note, actually participated in the original Tangent event. I was disappointed to find that the characterization of the Tangent Flash and Atom didn't really match up with the first volume of Tangent; the entire sequence, where Kyle is somewhat dazed, was confusing overall. Marz keeps the look and tone of the Tangent Green Lantern, but that's about it.

For Kyle Rayner fans or Green Lantern completists, this is not a bad trade, though certainly one hopes for sunnier days for Kyle Rayner soon.

[Contains full covers.]

The Green patrol doesn't stop, with a review of Green Arrow: Road to Jericho on the way.

13 on 52: Week Forty-Two

Wednesday, April 02, 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-Two: Great that Ralph never suicidal--and solved two locked door mysteries. Excellent issue.

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