Review: Kingdom Come trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

[This review comes from Collected Editions guest-blogger Doug Glassman:]

Ten years ago, while comics were dealing with the relative tail-end of the “grim-n-gritty” phase, Mark Waid and Alex Ross came out with a little book called Kingdom Come. Waid was the writer on The Flash and Ross was not the superstar he is now, with his most notable success at the time being the epic Marvels. Oh, how things change. For instance, Waid is now the writer on … The Flash. Huh. But Kingdom Come has not lost any of its resonance. It combines apocalyptic themes with the rich history of the DC universe. In fact, Kingdom Come has helped enrich said history, adding characters such as Jakeem Thunder, the new Cyclone and Wildcat and turning the oddly mohawked and ponytailed Nuklon into the masked Atom Smasher. With Kingdom Come now openly influencing Justice Society of America, it’s time to take a look back at DC’s resident epic.

Let me just say that this isn’t a book that I’ve been hailing for years. In fact, I only read it for the first time a few weeks ago, partly because I needed something to read on the flight home and partly because of the JSA tie-in mentioned above. (Yes, I haven’t fully switched to trades-only. JSA is one of those books that I just have to get from month to month.) Usually I cover the art last, but Kingdom Come is almost more famous for its art than its story. Personally, I’ve never fully liked Ross’ artwork. I find it too static and too awkward for storytelling. As well, I’ve often thought that his women look a little … masculine. While I still hold to the latter claim, I was happily disproven on the former.

Though the artwork is cluttered and the expressions sometimes mask the intent of the characters, Ross’ battle scenes have a certain elegance to them and are filled with detail. I highly recommend using the annotations by Jess Nevins which identifies all characters in fight scenes and point out the really tiny details. Some of them actually change the meaning of the art. For instance, one character’s death seems to be part of a montage, but is actually part of a scene—the start of the scene is just hidden in the background. Ross’ design sense when it comes to heroes, villains and those that fall between is outstanding, and it’s easy to see why a number of his designs were adapted into the main DCU. Could Kingdom Come have worked without Ross’ artwork? Perhaps. I personally would have loved to have seen George Perez, the king of crowd scenes, take this project on. But it wouldn’t have the same epic feel.

So how’s the story? Well, it’s pretty good. There are some very apocalyptic overtones and almost too much adaptation of DC's heroes into biblical allegory. (For instance, look for three nails in Superman’s pocket during his introduction.) While there is a frame story featuring the Spectre and preacher Norman McCay, they are less narrators and more observers, giving the reader the bare essential information and taking little overt action. The book addresses a number of questions raised in Watchmen about the necessity and authority of superheroes. It leaves a lot open to reader interpretation while offering its own answers. If you have a beloved major character in the DCU that was created before, say, 1990, chances are he or she appears in this book, albeit probably in an altered form befitting this dystopian world.

The most recent version of the trade contains a few extra pages involving a meeting with Orion, who has … well, let’s say “fulfilled Jack Kirby’s Fourth World destiny.” I didn’t read the story before this was added and it would have been weaker had this sequence not been inserted. The trade also has an identification guide for the characters, sketches and an introduction by Elliot S! Maggin, who wrote the novelization of the story. There’s an Absolute Edition that covers even more ground and features much commentary, but with Jess Nevins’ annotations available, I’m not sure if the extras are needed. The regular trade is quite affordable and a must-buy for DC fans.

Kingdom Come earns its place as one of the most important works of the DC canon, despite the fact that it is an Elseworld. Its numerous new concepts reinvigorated the DCU and influenced stories that continue today. This skeptic has been won over.

[Contains introduction, covers, sketches, character information pages, identification guide, restored sequence explanation, gallery of “Kingdom Come”-related artwork. $14.95.]

Trade Perspectives: Who Would You Rather Have as Blue Beetle?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who would you rather have as Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes or Ted Kord?

And if you answer Jaime Reyes, doesn't that mean that ultimately DC did the right thing in killing off Ted Kord, so as to make way for a fresh interpretation of the character?

(I ask because, given Jaime's inclusion in the upcoming Brave and the Bold television show, I wonder if there's still a contingent out there with sore feelings about the death of Ted Kord, or whether Jaime's popularity has been enough to sweep that under the rug.)

Just curious.

Review: Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul collected hardcover (DC Comics)

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Given Grant Morrison's great fresh-classic take on Batman in Batman and Son, I expected great things from the Bat-family crossover Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul. Instead, what we have here is a fairly bland, gigantically decompressed story with a lot of punching and kicking, but not much to make it very remarkable.

I think few believed, when Greg Rucka killed off Ra's al Ghul in the riveting Batman: Death and the Maidens (if you haven't read it, run out and get a copy), that DC wouldn't bring the villain back one of these days. And given both Ra's appearance in Batman Begins and Rucka's excellent use of Ra's in Death, I've been eager to see Ra's next appearance.

But Resurrection disappointingly glosses completely over Ra's rebirth scene, and there seems to be some confusion between the various writers from the prologue to the story as to the exact science of Ra's return (and they ignore, completely Devin Grayson's brilliant set up of a Lazarus Pit in the Batcave in Batman/Ra's al Ghul: Year One). Moreover, Ra's "evil goals" are not much more than immortality, again, when something with a bit more mystery might've differentiated this story from most other Ra's al Ghul tales.

One intention of Infinite Crisis was to rid the DC Universe of the angsty Batman (at least, more angsty than normal) who betrayed and belittled his Bat-family at every turn. The result, however, is to bring us a Batman crossover that's all plot and no character development. Batman learns that Ra's has come back to life (an event that, undramatically, seems to surprise no one in the comic), Batman goes to confront Ra's, Batman and Ra's team up to fight a third enemy, and then Batman and Ra's fight one another. The internal Bat-conflict in Batman: Fugitive and Batman: War Games might've felt tired after a while, but at least it gave the crossovers a subtext beyond just fighting the villains.

There is, you might argue, a "character-based" subplot here involving Robin being tempted by Ra's to use the Lazarus Pit to resurrect his parents, Spoiler, Superboy, and others. Except, as Nightwing himself points out, Ra's offer makes no sense in terms of how the Lazarus Pit has been explained in comic book science (the bodies are too old, the Pit waters aren't portable, etc.) -- not to mention that no reader really believes Robin's going to make the obviously-wrong choice and join forces with Batman's enemy. The subplot deals with Robin's character, sure, but it's essentially two-issue-long filler that darts away from the real Batman/Ra's action in order to involve the Nightwing and Robin titles, and it makes the story unnecessarily bloated.

Finally, if I can add just one more insult to injury, Morrison's Damian character suffers greatly, writing-wise, in this story. As written by Morrison, Batman's erstwhile son walks the fine line between attention-starved child and deadly killer; as written by Keith Champagne, Fabian Nicieza and others, Damian comes off as a whiny brat, more Jar-Jar Binks than Batman's son. On the other hand, there's a bunch of instances here of Alfred playing action hero (taking on a crowd of ninjas, no less!) so I guess there's something here for everyone.

(To be fair, of sorts, Pop Matter's Shawn O'Rourke felt equally underwhelmed.)

[Contains full covers, short biographies]

Yeah, so Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul didn't quite do it for me. Good thing there's some Justice Society right around the corner. Join us next time!

Review: Hawkgirl: Hawkman Returns trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

With all due respect, it's not much of a feat to say that Hawkgirl: Hawkman Returns is not as bad as the nightmarishly poor Hawkgirl: The Maw. But in comparison to some books I've read lately like Booster Gold and Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War, Hawkgirl: Hawkman Returns seems hardly worth your hard-earned cash. There's some nice art here by writer Walt Simonson, Joe Bennett, and Renato Arlem especially, and the story isn't egregiously bad -- but neither does it ever get off the ground in a meaningful way.

The main difficulty with the book is that the plot never quite raises itself above good guys-fight-bad guys, though this is likely as much Simonson's fault as it is DC Comics's very loosely defined Rann/Thanagar War. Even having read Rann/Thanagar War, it was very unclear to me what Blackfire had to gain by keeping the war going on; aren't here "people," whom we never actually see here, dead as of Final Night?

Similarly, I found it hard to believe that Thanagar is still in danger, a year after 52, because of a mistake the Green Lantern Corps made and didn't fix. It doesn't help that Simonson completely mangles Blackfire's origin, often treats Hawkman as if he's native Thanagarian, and that it's impossible to tell the Thangarians from the Rannians through most of the story. That leaves just the fighting, and while Simonson and company draw some nice action sequences, there's not much more here than standard fare.

To be sure, any book that centers on the female lead pining away for the male lead to return seems somewhat destined for trouble (I've lately been thinking this might be why the last two seasons of The X-Files bombed). Hawkgirl, simultaneously wishing Hawkman would return and also cursing him for leaving, isn't terribly interesting, and it only reinforces the reader's sense that Hawkman is the real protagonist in this tale. Simonson fails to make Hawkgirl Kenda Saunders interesting in her own right -- she mostly mopes around and thinks about finding a direction for herself -- and as such the scenes without Hawkman feel simply like passing time.

The one bright spot, perhaps, is the last issue, with the aforementioned art by Renato Arlem. Arlem has a detailed style that shines especially in the New Orleans-inspired backgrounds of St. Roch, and it gives some sorely needed atmosphere to the comic. Simonson returns in the last chapter returns to the Egyptian Hath-Set plot begun by Geoff Johns, adding a bit of Apokoliptian technology to the mix. It was only here that I felt the trade began to pick up (amidst another tired Hawkman/Hawkgirl break-up scene), and this plot plus Arlem's art might almost be enough for me to pick up the final Hawkgirl trade before this series' cancellation (see discussion on the cancellation with Graeme McMillan at Newsarama). Almost.

[Contains full covers]

On now perhaps to some Batman, and then maybe Justice Society. Be there!

Trade Perspectives: Enough with the Front Foil Stamping!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Maybe I'm a little anal-retentive (though what comics fan isn't), but I like my trade paperbacks to stay in good condition. That's why when I shelve them on my bookshelf, I store them in bags; that's why when I read them, I'm careful not to bend the spines.

And when I read a hardcover, of course, I take the jacket off. A dust jacket, I know, is supposed to protect a book, but increasingly I find myself protecting the dust jacket from the world at large.

Now, with all the new DC Comics hardcovers, more and more when I take off the jacket I find ... a foil-stamped cover! Foil stamping on the hardcover spine I expect, and the occasional stamped cover I can deal with. But increasingly I'm finding ever more intricate cover stampings; see the full Justice League logo on Justice League of America hardcovers, the Justice Society eagle on Justice Society hardcovers, even a scene of Batman and Ra's al Ghul fighting on Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul!

As if trying not to crease the pages, trying not to bend the spine, trying not to damage the jacket, and trying not to scuff the edges all weren't enough ... I now have to endeavor not to flake the stamping off the front of my hardcovers! It's getting so that I have to hold my hardcover three feet away with salad tongs to read it, just to keep a collection in good shape.

Please, oh please DC Comics -- we know you're high end, and we know you're fancy ... now enough with the front stamping already!

[Paid for by Readers Against Front Stamping and the Society for Tongue-in-Cheek Blog Posts.]

Review: Green Lantern: Tales of the Sinestro Corps collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, August 18, 2008

The collection Green Lantern: Tales of the Sinestro Corps War is something of a strange animal, serving at times as both a prelude, a chapter, and an epilogue to The Sinestro Corps War. I'm a bit disappointed in how it turned out to be necessary to read these "background" tales in order to understand the main Sinestro Corps action (how the Statue of Liberty gets broken, for one, and why Superman-Prime is suddenly half-naked mid-way through the second volume, for two); at the same time, the completist in me likes how DC has collected not just the Sinestro Corps backup stories and specials, but also the amazingly detailed Green Lantern/Sinestro Corps Secret Files.

Aside from the Tales of the Sinestro Corps short stories and the Secret Files, the main thrust of this volume is four Sinestro Corps specials: Parallax, Cyborg-Superman, Superman-Prime, and Ion. The Cyborg-Superman story, written by Alan Burnett, essentially retells the Adventures of Superman #466 origin of the cyborg, Hank Henshaw, with a couple of minor retcons. It's a fun story because of the visual appeal of the Cyborg, and because the reader gets to see him throw down with Superman again, but I felt most of the content could have been blended into the main Sinestro Corps War story.

Probably the best part of the Tales of the Sinestro Corps War collection is the Superman-Prime special written by Geoff Johns. Like Black Adam, "Prime" is a character who's voice Johns has spot-on, and it's a sick thrill whenever Prime is on the scene. Johns dives right into the conflicts Prime left behind at the end of Infinite Crisis, pitting Prime against another mob of DC heroes, including the Flashes who previously imprisoned him, Red Star (whose family Prime killed), and Risk (where Prime, gleefully, rips off Risk's other arm).

All the while, and into Prime's battle with Krypto and then Superman, Johns keeps up Prime's whiny, woe-is-me-tone, just on this side of parodying today's fanboys, and the story is twisted goodness. The art by Pete Woods, echoing his great crowd scenes in Amazons Attack, make this special feel all the more epic.

The Parallax and Ion specials are both written by Ron Marz, are essentially Kyle Rayner stories, continuations in many ways of the recent Ion miniseries. As in Ion, Marz writes a particularly morose Kyle Rayner, but it's also a Kyle that feels entirely natural, given all that he's been through. That Kyle is asked to train the new Ion, Sodam Yat, further cements Kyle's growth in the Green Lantern Corps, and I especially like the emphasis that Marz and Geoff Johns are placing on the four Earth Lanterns now being a "band of brothers," with Kyle back in the fold. There's not much in this special that isn't covered by the final issue of Green Lantern Corps in the second Sinestro Corps War volume, but I'll still take all the Marz-writing-Kyle I can get.

Finally, the Green Lantern/Sinestro Corps Secret Files offers pages upon pages of tiny biographies of hundreds of Lanterns. Literally, the longest part of my read was this Secret Files. The detail here is nothing short of unbelievable, a combination of already-established stories and backgrounds on dozens of new characters. There was so much here I found myself skimming at parts, and I couldn't help but wonder if much of this was background for background's sake, or if Geoff Johns has plans for every one of the story tidbits he sprinkled through this section. If you're a Green Lantern history buff, you won't be disappointed with this.

[Contains full covers.]

So that's that for The Sinestro Corps War -- in retrospect, it's been quite a ride. I'll be interested to go back and read it again in a few months, possibly interspersing the Sinestro Corps tales where I now understand they go. Anyway, on now I think to some Hawkgirl, and we'll see what's next from there.

Review: Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Volume 2 collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What I found most impressive about The Sinestro Corps War, in retrospect, was the sheer amount that it changed for both the Green Lantern titles and the Green Lantern mythos. In that way, I equate the second volume of Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps Wars to something of a television show's season finale -- big on action, and when it ends, you find that nothing is what it used to be. Getting there, I still can't help but feel that The Sinestro Corps War spins its wheels for a while, but the effects are sure to be felt for a long time to come.

The biggest change that The Sinestro Corps War leaves behind is the Corps new authorization to use lethal force. In the great after-interview at the end of this collection, Geoff Johns talks about how allowing lethal force makes the Green Lantern Corps more realistic in comparison to the police and army, and also how he intended this new ability to cause discussion among the Green Lantern readership. This is fine with me; I'm not a fan of the Green Lanterns killing, and if Johns had made this change just to be "cool" I'd have to protest, but I appreciate that Johns is making a change -- the end result of which we haven't yet seen -- that is controversial and intended as such, and I'm eager to see where he takes this.

A number of other plotlines coming out of The Sinestro Corps War include Kyle Rayner's renewed status as Guy Gardner's partner, and the rejuvenation of Coast City. Both the scene of Coast City's residents waving green lanterns, and Guy and Kyle's final talk at the end of the book, were touching, and I was disappointed that they didn't get a bigger focus. The Coast City scene certainly deserved its own splash page instead of a half page, as opposed to the three or four splash pages of random battle scenes at the end of the book. And at the end, too, as much as I liked the exchange between Guy and Kyle, I was disappointed that Hal Jordan wasn't in the end, given his central role in the book.

This is just another way, in my opinion, that The Sinestro Corps War gets so caught up in being a grand battle that it loses, at times, some of the little moments. I talked before about how interesting I found the exchange between Corps member Natu and Sinestro; this falls away completely in the second volume. Some of this awkwardness has to do with how Johns and writers Dave Gibbons and Peter Tomasi split the characters in the story, such that there's often a delay in finding out what happens next to either the Earth Green Lanterns or the Corps; it makes the book move in fits and starts, without much deep detail paid to either.

Of course, we all know by now the revelations within this volume about the multi-spectrum Lanterns, including the Black Lanterns and the much touted forthcoming Blackest Night. I'm confident answers will come in time, but I'm left with about a gazillion questions -- Are all the spectrums animals like Ion and Parallax? Where did the animals come from? How was the Anti-Monitor resurrected? If there's 52 Monitors, aren't there 52 Anti-Monitors? Why is the Anti-Montior the guardian of the Sinestro Corps, and then why isn't it called the Anti-Monitor Corps -- and I tend to think it's too many questions left unanswered, especially for a "self-contained" trade. Some of these answers, I realize, may also be forthcoming in the Tales of the Sinestro Corps collection, as well, though I don't know if that excuses the loose ends.

I'm reminded of a DC Comics miniseries back in 1993 called Trinity, which starred Green Lantern, the L.E.G.I.O.N. and the Darkstars in a story tied to elements of Oan myth. I can't say if that was a better crossover than The Sinestro Corps War, or if nostalgia just clouds my recall, but I know there were fun scenes with Lobo and Boddika, and some other interaction between the groups.

I guess Trinity was a real crossover, whereas The Sinestro Corps War is more just a shared story between a family of titles, but still I wish there'd been more of a plot to The Sinestro Corps War, instead of what simply seemed to be a connected string of scenes where the characters run from here to there, and then battle. I'll be roasted alive for this, but I found Amazons Attack a more effective story than The Sinestro Corps War; Sinestro was better written, to be sure, but Amazons Attack had more quiet moments among the Justice League, which I might have preferred.

[Contains full covers; what came before; interview with writers and artists, including sketches.]

Three cheers, by the way, for the interview section that comes with volume two of The Sinestro Corps War; I know I've been critical of this book, but I appreciate DC including these extras to make the cost of the collection worthwhile. Thanks, DC!

Tune in next time as we finish our look at The Sinestro Corps War with Tales of the Sinestro Corps.

Trade Perspectives: Bart Allen and Robin notes in Lying in the Gutters

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mark Waid's comments in The Flash Companion on the death of Bart Allen, as reprinted in this week's Lying in the Gutters, make me feel better, much as perhaps they shouldn't.

We get near final confirmation, really, that it wasn't DC's plan all along to kill Bart Allen -- more valuable, however, I think is Waid's confident assertion that Bart Allen will be back someday, somehow. Not, perhaps, that the rumor mill wasn't already swirling to that effect, but Waid's statement just gives me hope.

Also interesting in Lying in the Gutters was the next piece, noting that Mark Bagley's going to be drawing a new Batman & Robin series that will replace the current Robin title.

I've been a fan of Tim Drake's from way back, and if they must give Tim second billing in his own title, here's hoping they keep the numbering (though probably not). But the series has floundered more often than not since Chuck Dixon left, so I'm optimistic about the relaunch, especially with Bagley's experience drawing teen heroes. Now what if they could get Brian Michael Bendis to write an arc ...

Review: Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Volume 1 collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, August 11, 2008

I was not as impressed with the first volume of Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War as I thought I would be. Sure, there were some surprises, but I imagine the biggest one -- the identity of the "Guardian" of the Sinestro Corps -- is pretty much already revealed to anyone who looks at the cover to volume two. This is still a better comic book than what DC released ten years ago ("Millenium Giants," anyone?), but as a crossover most of it seemed quite ordinary.

[Contains spoilers for Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Volume One.]

I'll grant that there are some large, fantastic battles in the first half of The Sinestro Corps War, and that there's a thrill to seeing the embattled Green Lantern Corps in the trenches (the sniper, early on, was especially exciting). But the plot quickly devolves to standard crossover fare -- the main Green Lanterns Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner are kidnapped to the Sinestro Corps' home planet seemingly without reason, while the rest of the Corps fights on Mogo and Oa, allowing writers Geoff Johns and Dave Gibbons to split the plots between the two books. As opposed to Greg Rucka and Judd Winick's jointly-written Checkmate/Outsiders crossover (or even Rucka and Johns Wonder Woman/Flash), this has the effect of making every other chapter forgettable, depending on which plot you find the most interesting.

Additionally, we find in the end that the Sinestro Corps' real target isn't Oa or Mogo, but rather Earth. It's a nice cliffhanger leading in to volume two, but it makes most of the battles of volume one moot. For a crossover that's received as much attention as The Sinestro Corps War, I didn't expect to have to go through nearly five issues before the story really started.

While I've enjoyed the way that Geoff Johns has deeped and extended the Green Lantern mythos, there's also a lot of revelations in this volume that aren't fully explained. Even as I know the story's not over, I also don't get the sense that answers are necessarily forthcoming. Apparently, we learn, Ion is a willpower force separate from Kyle Rayner, which inhabits its host similar to the fear-creature Parallax; I believe it's the first time we've learned this, though some Green Lanterns are surprised while others take it in stride. Second, the entire Sinestro Corps concept is very vaguely explained -- it's called the Sinestro Corps, but the leader really seems to be a resurrected Anti-Monitor, which is expecially tough to jibe with the multitude of Monitors in Countdown.

What I did like here -- and what continues to put Green Lantern above comics of the past -- were some excellent character moments around all the carnage. Johns shows early on how Sinestro Corps functions as a thematic sequel to Green Lantern: Rebirth; Rebirth was about Hal Jordan regaining his life, but Sinestro Corps is about his regaining his position of leadership, and this will be an interesting challenge for Hal. Over on the Green Lantern Corps side, Gibbons continues to profile one of my favorite characters, Soranik Natu, who must sit out the war to deal with a political dilemma created by Sinestro. The book also deals with some of Guy Gardner's history with the yellow Sinestro rings in a creative and amusing way.

This first volume of Sinestro Corps War ends with one other cliffhanger, that of the Guardians now granting the Green Lanterns the ability to use lethal force. We're led to believe at one point that Hal Jordan himself might kill his enemies -- Hal has killed before, of course, as Parallax, but most of those deaths have been reversed since Geoff Johns brought Hal back, and my hope is that Hal will decide not to use this new ability. I understand why Wonder Woman killed Maxwell Lord, and even why Guy Gardner once killed Major Force, but the newly minted Hal strikes me as a character who should be able to rise above lethal action. My guess is that Johns intends the reader to feel exactly this dilemma, and I'm eager to see how it's resolved.

[Contains full covers.]

On now to the second volume of Sinestro Corps, and then the Tales of the Sinestro Corps collection. I've heard such good things about this crossover; I'm hoping to be quite impressed.

Review: Booster Gold: 52 Pick-Up collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

That Booster Gold has another series after all this time is a shock in-and-of-itself. That Booster Gold: 52 Pick-Up is good is nothing short of astounding. I guess it's true that there's indeed no such thing as a bad character, just bad concepts; taking Booster from Justice League cut-up to guardian of time (and still a cut-up) is a great concept, indeed.

That Booster Gold works, however, shouldn't be such a surprise, given that the elements within are the same tried-and-true methods that brought writer Geoff Johns (with Jeff Katz) success in Flash and Green Lantern. As far out as the stories get here, they all in some way relate back to Booster's character (much as Johns paralleled the Flash and his Rogues, or Hal Jordan and the rebuilding of Coast City). The writers write one of their best stories early on, where Booster meets a young Guy Gardner and finds they have more similarities than differences; Guy's problems with his family offer the reader insight into Booster's own.

In fact, Johns and Katz work to redeem Booster so far, I felt at times he became too likable. As artist (and Booster Gold creator) Dan Jurgens notes in his introduction, Booster was created to reflect the greedy ethos of the 1980s; even as he worked toward redemption, it still remained that Booster came from slimy beginnings. In the new version, Johns adds a slight retcon that Booster bet on future football games not for his own gains, but to pay off his father's gambling debts; this adds a note of nobility to Booster's origins that I'm not convinced it needed.

I don't spoil too much, given that the next Booster Gold trade is called Blue and Gold, to say that Blue Beetle Ted Kord makes an appearance here. Hearing this alone, and knowing the strong time travel elements to Booster Gold, my expectation is that Ted won't be allowed to remain alive in the time stream for fear of affecting some other events.

But, the last line of the trade, suggesting that both Booster and Beetle might be the greatest heroes nobody ever knew, living anonymously in the timestream, sounds really, really cool, and makes me very hopeful that Blue Beetle sticks around. Heck, couldn't they change the title to Booster Gold/Blue Beetle, and let both heroes share the spotlight? I imagine this would cause a bunch of messes in other titles, especially if other writers couldn't help but reintroduce Ted to their characters, letting alone that it might cheapen the impact of The OMAC Project -- but wouldn't it be really, really cool? I sense I'm destined to be disappointed in the next volume, but my excitement is a reflection of the power of the writing and the strength of the characters here.

I also appreciate that Booster Gold is a title where the writers are paying attention to the details. Rip Hunter's chalkboards are bar none one of the best things about this title, and I was thrilled to see not one, but two of them in this trade; the rips in time, showing everything from Anthro to Young Justice, are also a hoot. Dan Jurgens, whose art looks as good as ever, should also get a lot of credit -- he does a perfect Brian Bolland imitation when this book coincides with The Killing Joke, and the pointed look Batman gives Booster when Booster refuses Justice League membership in the beginning is spot on. (And who knows better than Batman about having a secret identity that pretends to be an idiot?)

Booster Gold is a fantastic superhero comic, beautifully drawn, with time travel used as a great metaphor for success and mourning. I'm gushing, I know, but it's exciting to find a comic book this good. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

[Contains full covers, introduction by Booster Gold creator Dan Jurgens.]

We're going to wade hip deep into The Sinestro Corps War now, and then on perhaps to some Hawkgirl. See you there!

Trade Perspectives: Best Online Comics Shop?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Gas prices, food prices -- heck, inflation is nothing new to comics fans; comics used to cost a quarter!

But never let it be said that Collected Editions isn't on the lookout for a bargain, or willing to pass those bargains on to the gentle reader.

I found a post the other day by gyoung345 on the ComicBloc forums, talking about three mail-order comic book stores: Sci-Fi Genre, Discount Comic Book Service (DCBS), and Badger Comics.

Of the three, the only one I've used has been DCBS, and I've been very pleased with their service -- the books arrived on time and in good condition, and the price was the cheapest I could find. I've also looked at in the past, but with shipping, their prices haven't stacked up to DCBS.

gyoung345 decides in the post that he likes Badger comics the best and DCBS the least, mainly because of DCBS's lack of monthly subscription system; since I'm buying mostly trades from DCBS, this isn't as much a factor for me as it is for gyoung345. If Badger's prices are right, though, I might give them a try for a month.

That's two new stories now, Badger and Sci-Fi Genre, that I hadn't heard of. Any more out there? From what online comics shops do you buy your comics, especially your trades? Who do you consider to be the best online comics shop?

Review: Checkmate: Fall of the Wall trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 04, 2008

As single issues go, Checkmate #16 is very near one of the best issues I've ever read. As the first chapter of Checkmate: Fall of the Wall, it's just another example of how Greg Rucka's writing just gets better with each passing moment. It's a pity, indeed, that Fall of the Wall represents the end of Rucka's run on Checkmate; dollar for dollar, this is surely one of the best trade paperback collections out there.

The first chapter of Fall of the Wall, "Past Perfect," focuses on relationships, both the origin of the romance between Sasha Bordeaux and Mr. Terrific, and the friendship between Fire and the newly resurrected Ice. From the opening pages, where Rucka reveals that Mr. Terrific is the only person whom Bordeaux's OMAC programming doesn't show her predetermined ways to kill, to the quiet panel of Fire and Ice's embrace (with award-deserving art by Joe Bennett), "Past Perfect" demonstrates to the reader just how much we've grown to care about these characters. Regarding Fire and Ice, especially -- Gail Simone may have brought Ice back, but Greg Rucka really makes us feel the joy of the moment.

Much as I enjoyed the trade as a whole, I found the main story here, "Fall of the Wall," a bit anti-climactic. Given that most Internet-laden readers already have a general sense of what Salvation Run is about, the revelation that Amanda Waller's been sending villains off-planet is no big shock; additionally, the game-changing that the other Royals do to Waller comes very swiftly in the last few pages. What I did like about "Fall of the Wall" was the way Rucka used it, as he has with many Checkmate stories, to at the same time reveal tidbits about the Bishops and Knights who work under the Royals; I think having the August General around provides some terrific tension, and Jessica Midnight's magic powers are also very interesting.

What I love about Checkmate is the sense you get that Rucka is working with a paintbrush that includes the entire DC Comics universe, and this shows strongly in Fall of the Wall. Not only is the new White Queen a former member of the Doom Patrol, her knight a Rocket Red, and her Bishop an Outsiders villain, but the role of Castellan for the Checkmate castle goes to Master Jailer, late of some early 2000s Geoff Johns Superman comics. And the cameos! There's no less than Dr. Mid-Nite, Ice, Martian Manhunter, and Oracle here--even Detective Chimp gets an off-screen mention. I can't help but think this kind of thing wouldn't have been possible pre-Infinite Crisis; as in Brave and the Bold, I just love that the DC Universe can team up again.

Rucka rounds out Fall of the Wall with a one and two-part pair of profile issues (with assists from writer Eric Trautmann), one on Master Jailer and one on the Black Queen's Knight, Mademoiselle Marie. Even if these slow the book's progress a little, they're both entertaining (and chock full of guest stars). I especially liked the look at the past bearer's of Marie's title; between the potential for Marie to have died of a gunshot wound in "Fall of the Wall," and then her nailbiting rescue attempt at the end of the chapter, Rucka and Trautmann really made me root for this character. These profile issues reminded me strongly of similar stories in Bill Willingham's Fables, and I like the vibe it gives the series.

Let me tell you, I'm pretty nervous about Bruce Jones taking over Checkmate after Rucka, especially given the Nightwing: Brothers in Blood fiasco. Checkmate, if it isn't obvious, is a title I like a lot, and I'm not eager to see it go by the wayside. We'll see.

[Contains full covers.]

On to Booster Gold now, and then Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War. Be there!