Review: Suicide Squad: From the Ashes trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Loyal readers know I'm a Checkmate fan. And Checkmate fans, run, don't walk, to pick up Suicide Squad: From the Ashes.

John Ostrander, 1980s Suicide Squad-writer and general comics writer extraordinaire, returns to the title in this volume that generally reads like Checkmate volume three-and-a-half. Amanda Waller, ejected from Checkmate after the events of Fall of the Wall and now fully in control of Task Force X, mounts a Suicide Squad mission with personal repercussions for Squad member Colonel Rick Flag.

Of everything new coming from DC Comics in the Infinite Crisis/One Year Later era, I've found myself most enjoying DC's new "intrigue" set: Checkmate, Outsiders, and now Suicide Squad. While Suicide Squad contains less real-world politicking than Checkmate, there's plenty of betrayal, backstabbing, and divided loyalties here. Amanda Waller is played as the "bad guy" in Checkmate, but in Suicide Squad it's good to be bad, and this volume delivers plenty of fiendish fun.

From the Ashes does double-duty as a tale for both old and new Suicide Squad fans. The first few chapters are set firmly in the past, relating the end of the previous Suicide Squad series and catching up with the main characters from there. Then, the series jumps past a couple of DC Universe events, including Infinite Crisis and 52, to pick up with the modern-day Squad. I especially liked how Ostrander reconciled two incarnations of General Wade Eiling--former Captain Atom-series nemesis and current Justice League bad guy "The Shaggy Man"--in a way that worked with the themes of the series as a whole.

It's Rick Flag's journey that ties together these two eras of the Suicide Squad. As someone who did not read the series previously, I was unsure how much of what we learn here is new information and what had been established earlier. Despite my confusion, I still found Flag an interesting protagonist, seemingly a lone good man able to work with a team of villains and still keep his conscience clear. Ostrander suggests toward the end that Flag may not be who we think he is, but--despite the ties to the book's theme of family--I'm not quite sure what this adds to the character; Flag is far more interesting as Flag than as someone else (just as Captain Atom became far less interesting in Extreme Justice when it seemed he was not Nathanial Adam). I'd be curious to see Ostrander follow up on this revelation elsewhere, to see what else can be made of it.

I've never been much for military comics, but Suicide Squad: From the Ashes deftly mixes the military, politics, and evil super-villain in a way that's very, very engaging. Checkmate fans, this is a must-have for your collection.

[Contains full covers.]

We'll stay on the darker side of super-heroics next with Batman and the Outsiders: The Chrysalis and then maybe some more Countdown tie-ins from there. Don't miss it!

Review: Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Without question, some readers are going to feel pretty burned by Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer. That is, note that this story is "the search," and not actually the finding; Ray Palmer appears nowhere in this volume, except as a teaser advertisement for Countdown Volume Three. However, if it's the journey you're interested in and not necessarily the destination--especially a journey through DC's new Multiverse--I found a surprising lot to like in this volume.

The Search for Ray Palmer takes the new Challengers of the Beyond on a tour of DC's greatest imprints, Elseworlds, and classic alternate realities. The variety of writers also brings with it a variety of approaches and levels of quality. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti's "Superwoman/Batwoman" barely involves the Challengers at all, but is big on fun gender-bending duplicates; Peter Johnson's "Red Rain," on the other hand, involves the Challengers directly in the story, is admirably spooky, and even adds something to the Red Rain mythos. Sean McKeever's "Crime Society" story also barely involves the Challengers, but instead fleshes out the interesting (though unfortunately short-lived) Jokester character.

I liked Ron Marz's "Wildstorm" story in that Marz again writes Kyle Rayner, and follows up on the Monarch scene from his Ion miniseries, but his use of the Wildstorm characters left much to be desired. Overall Marz poorly introduces the Wildstorm characters and doesn't raise them much past stereotypes of themselves--Midnighter is violent, the Authority is uncaring, etc. The comic would hardly make me want to read a Wildstorm title if I weren't already familiar with them.

None of the writers, unfortunately, succeed in making the Challengers of the Beyond any less annoying than they start out. Former Robin Jason Todd is the Guy Gardner of the group, cracking mediocre jokes and acting "too cool for school"; Kyle Rayner vacillates between portrayals as stuck-up or a buffoon; and Donna Troy incessantly rolls her eyes and wonders what to do about the two. Uniting the three was likely a premise that sounded good on paper, but having multiple writers offers no room for character growth, and so they just bicker all the way through the tales. Rather than giving these characters a place in the DC Universe, The Search for Ray Palmer unfortunately reinforces why these characters are second-stringers.

The Search for Ray Palmer is a promising tour of the new DC Multiverse; now the question remains as to what DC will do with all these characters. Despite my complaints about this volume, I enjoyed learning about the alternate characters, and many of them would seem to have potential--the female Blue Beetle mourning the loss of Booster Gold, the Manezons rumored to reappear, the loved ones that the Jokester leaves behind--and I wouldn't mind seeing many of them in the DCU proper. That, at least, would give The Search for Ray Palmer greater purpose--not a tour, but a beginning.

[Contains full covers, summary page.]

On now to get dangerous with the Suicide Squad, and then maybe some Outsiders.

Comic Book Holiday Gift Guide 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Last year Collected Editions suggested a host of great holiday trade paperback gifts for the comic book lover in your life.

Everyone knows the economy is rougher and times are tighter, so this year, Collected Editions presents eleven comic book gifts under $25 -- and we'll even show you how to get free shipping with them, too! With these package deals, your holiday shipping is almost done.

* The Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo
With the new Dark Knight movie, I predict this graphic novel is going to be the season's biggest seller. And at a 40% discount, the hardcover is cheaper even than some paperbacks. Pair with Batman: Hush Vol. 1 and the Artemis Fowl Promotional Edition (see below) for free shipping.

* Batman: Hush Vol. 1
Hush remains a high-powered, brilliantly illustrated tour de force through Batman's greatest villains. There's all sorts of expensive versions of this out there, but the paperback of the first volume remains a great stocking stuffer. Pair with The Joker as a treat for your favorite Batman fan, and include the Artemis Fowl Promotional Edition (see below) for free shipping.

* The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
Neil Gaiman's Sandman volume that started it all is still available in an inexpensive paperback version, perfect for the horror fan that might be interested in comics. Pair this with just about any other title on this list for free shipping.

* The Complete Persepolis
Now an upcoming movie, The Complete Persepolis is a literate graphic novel memoir of the author's family during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. If you've got an avid reader who's been on the fence about trying graphic novels, this comprehensive volume could be just the ticket. Pair this with any other book on this list for free shipping.

* In the Shadow of No Towers
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer/artist Art Spiegelman offers this over-sized graphic novel that follows both his own and the country's experiences after September 11. This is a can't miss with fans of non-fiction graphic novels, and 14 inches x 9 inches, this book is an impressive gift for a relatively low price. Pair with The Complete Persepolis for free shipping.

* Wanted
This acclaimed comic about the super-villain side of superheroics was also a film with Angelina Jolie this past summer. For a comics fan interested in rich characterization who primarily reads DC or Marvel, this might be a worthwhile diversion. Pair with Watchmen for free shipping.

* Watchmen
Buzz for the new Watchmen movie is already in high gear, but you don't have to spend a fortune to share this story with your favorite comics fan. A 400+ page paperback collection is still available for just over ten dollars. Pair with The Joker for some gritty fun, and include the Nutcracker stickers for free shipping.

* Ultimate Iron Man Volume 1
Fans of this year's Iron Man movie will appreciate science-fiction legend Orson Scott Card's alternate take on the origins of Iron Man. This is another impressive hardcover for a low price. Pair with Sandman or Wanted for free shipping.

* Wolverine: Blood and Sorrow
This self-contained collection of Wolverine stories is an inexpensive comics gift you can give to your favorite X-Men fan, and they won't have to buy twelve other comics in order to understand it. Pair with Ultimate Iron Man Volume 1 for free shipping.

* Indiana Jones Omnibus, Vol. 1
This over 300-page volume is perfectly timed for a fan of the Indiana Jones movies, or someone who just started enjoying them this year with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Pair with the Artemis Fowl Promotional Edition (see below) for free shipping.

* Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
With the new Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon and rumors of a live-action series on the way, there's growing buzz about Star Wars again. This graphic novel ties in with a new video game by the same name, and might be just the thing for the gamer on your list. Pair with Batman: Hush Vol. 1, and include include the Trolls, Elves, and Fairies coloring book (see below) for free shipping.

And to bring your order just over $25 for free shipping, include ...

* Artemis Fowl Promotional Edition
This cheap introduction into the world of Artemis Fowl clocks in at over 300 pages, making it an excellent value this holiday season. Buy this for your favorite young reader, or get free shipping and donate this to your local library.

* Nutcracker stickers
Nothing says Christmas like The Nutcracker, and these stickers are cheap enough to put your order over the top to help you get free shipping. A great stocking stuffer for the child in your life, or buy them for the free shipping and give them to a needy family in your community.

* Trolls, Elves, and Fairies coloring book
Another cheap alternative to help you reach free shipping. This is a fun relaxation gift for the fantasy fan in your life, or buy this for the free shipping and then give to Goodwill.

Have a great (and not too costly) holiday season!

(Lots of bloggers, by the way, have Amazon links like the ones above, and when you buy anything after clicking on these links, that blogger gets a few cents. This holiday season, if you're buying gifts through Amazon, consider clicking on someone's link before you buy; I know I will. There are lots of hard-working bloggers out there, and this is a great, easy way to support them.)

Checkmate: Chimera snubs Rucka, Trautmann; Robinson still on Superman

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Couldn't be more disappointed than to see in DC Comics's Feburary 2009 solitictations that it seems the final Checkmate trade paperback, Chimera, won't collect Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann's final three issues, #23-25.

Yes, it was probably expedient to expunge these issues and let the only writer on the final trade be Bruce Jones, but it's a difference of only three issues, and it rewards the readers who stuck with this series to have the entire thing collected. I think this was a poor decision on DC's part.

Here's hoping they might somehow collect these issues with Rucka and Trautmann's Final Crisis: Resist.


The wait-for-trader in me is wondering if and how DC might collect these "Origins and Omens" backup stories appearing in all the titles post-Final Crisis.


Any number of stories saddened me in this week's Lying in the Gutters, whether the rewrites on Final Crisis or the shifting writers on "Battle for the Cowl" (I like to believe a book's own writer or artist doesn't hate it while I'm enjoying it, thank you) -- but no rumor concerned me moreso than the suggestion that the Superman titles lost another writer with James Robinson walking off.

Fortunately, the Superman Homepage got confirmation this wasn't true, and it's now disappeared from the Lying in the Gutters column.

Final Crisis Relevations, Legion of Three Worlds, Batman: Hush Omnibus solicited

Monday, November 17, 2008

Here's another bunch of collections coming from DC Comics, now in to Summer 2009. Highlights include some Final Crisis crossovers, and the first ever complete Batman: Hush paperback.

Final Crisis

* Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds HC - Hardcover edition of the Geoff Johns/George Perez Final Crisis/Legion crossover.

* Final Crisis: Revelations HC - Hardcover edition of Greg Rucka's Question/Batwoman/Spectre Final Crisis crossover.

New and Notable

* Batman: Hush Omnibus - A paperback edition containing both volumes of Batman: Hush. The first time Hush has been available in one paperback volume; we wonder if DC's finding that releasing books as "volume one" and "volume two" results in fewer sales on the second volume.

* Showcase Presents: Eclipso - Contains stories by Bob Haney, so these are older Eclipso stories. We're still holding out for a collection of the 1990s Keith Giffen series.

* Brave and the Bold Vol. 4 - The next collection of Brave and the Bold with stories by Marv Wolfman. Note that this series goes to paperback, at least according to the solicitations, with this volume.

Series Editions

* Superman: New Krypton Vol. 2 - The next New Krypton volume has stories by Geoff Johns, James Robinson, and Sterling Gates, which means this includes the newest Supergirl relaunch, too.

* Trinity Vol. 2

* Reign in Hell

* Teen Titans: Roll Call

* Secret Six: Unhinged - The first volume of the new Secret Six series.

* Metal Men SC - We've been wondering if DC was letting their Metal Man relaunch fall by the wayside, or if we'd ever see this volume in softcover. Here's your answer.

If we're not mistaken, this now covers all the Final Crisis crossovers (if you figure the one- and two-shots will be in the Final Crisis Companion). Which book are you most looking forward to?

Review: Countdown to Final Crisis Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

It's not hard to see why Countdown drove so many in the blogosphere so crazy. The second volume of Countdown is an amazing collage of filler material and non sequiturs, punctuated by an occasional flash of brilliance of DC Comics nostalgia.

You would think that, given that Countdown doesn't have to show the natural progression of time in the way that 52 did, the writers would have an easier time balancing the multiple storylines and characters. Instead, what drags down the pace of Countdown are numerous unnecessary scenes that seem intended mainly just to "check in" with the cast members.

Holly Robinson, for instance, takes just about forever to depart for and arrive on Themyscira, while the story continually beats us over the head about the evilness of Athena (really you-know-who). The writers also offer multiple scenes of Mary Marvel's generic evilness toward random bystanders, when I couldn't help but think just one example (or at least an example with more plot relevance) would have sufficed.

The fun side of Countdown, however, is the way in which it's becoming It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Countdown--that is, a cast of thousands. The last volume offered the forgotten New God Sleez; this volume had a bevy of Cadmus characters last seen in Superboy, including Serling Roquette and the Newsboy Legion (though missing, unfortunately, Flip), and also Mr. Orr and Equuis, late of Superman For Tomorrow. These are by no means headliners, but they do show an obscure depth of DC Comics knowledge that's fun for the dedicated fan, even if a new reader might be lost.

Countdown also continues to shout out to longer-established DC Comics fans. In addition to the use of Jack Kirby's Cadmus and the New Gods, Jimmy Olsen's nascent powers match those he had in more than a dozen Silver Age Superman stories. The second volume of Countdown also brings in Kirby's OMAC, Brother Eye (in their Infinite Crisis forms) and Buddy Blank, though as someone not familiar with the Kirby OMAC mythology, I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something through much of the Karate Kid/Buddy Blank scenes.

Indeed, perhaps in its attempt to be the "spine" of the DC Universe, Countdown jumps around a lot, and requires a very patient reader. Karate Kid has apparently contracted a virus, though I completely missed where we were supposed to understand this. Mary Marvel is embroiled in a fight with the Shadowpact which thankfully skips a lot of exposition, but comes on remarkably suddenly. Most notably, Jimmy Olsen learns a major fact about Clark Kent (and come on, what other major fact is there?), a plotline that's barely touched on again, and it's only because I read Superman: 3-2-1 Action that I had any idea what was going on.

The final chapter of Countdown to Final Crisis's second volume serves to summarize the series so far and shed light on the book's overriding conspiracy. While I appreciate Countdown offering a bit more cohesion at the halfway mark (and I did feel something of a thrill at how everything interrelates), I couldn't help but think it had all been done before. Mary Marvel, it seems, serves to harness the power of magic in the DC Universe, while Karate Kid's taking care of the technology ... it's Alexander Luthor's plan from Infinite Crisis, right? Unfortunately, this only underscores how much better Countdown to Infinite Crisis handled the conspiracy plot; here's hoping Countdown to Final Crisis is headed for something different.

[Contains full covers, summary pages.]

On now to some Countdown crossovers, and then we'll see where we end up after that. See you next time!

Review: Justice League of America: The Injustice League collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Much as I was looking forward to Dwayne McDuffie's post Justice League Unlimited work on the main comic book series, I unfortunately found myself disappointed. There are certainly some bright spots to Justice League of America: The Injustice League, but for the most part I found it lacking in depth and even much characterization beyond the surface level. Some might argue that Brad Meltzer spent too much time exploring the emotions and history of the Justice League, but I found McDuffie's first arc in contrast to be too much story and not enough meaning.

McDuffie offers a plot here that's not terribly different from Justice League stories past, in which the DC Universe villains form a counterpart Injustice League to take revenge on the heroes. McDuffie does a nice riff on Meltzer's "trading cards" membership drive from Justice League of America #0--with Lex Luthor, the Joker, and Cheetah in the roles of the Big Three--and there's a cheap thrill in the villains calling themselves "Injustice League Unlimited" and meeting in the Hall of Doom--ultimately McDuffie's plot comes off as uninspired.

The similarities between the Justice and Injustice Leagues--which is always a fun element, as in Grant Morrison's JLA: Rock of Ages--end here with the Big Three. In addition, though many scenes and cover images promise a near veritable army of villains to take on the League, the climactic scene offers only a handful, and of these few real powerhouses or headliners--they fight Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze, for instance, while Circe, Bizarro, Zoom and others never show up.

Moreover, Injustice League lacked a real sense of DC Comics history. Black Lightning makes reference to having worked for Lex Luthor, but the two never actually have a meaningful confrontation; similarly, John Stewart makes a passing reference to Fatality having a Sinestro Corps ring, though McDuffie hardly differentiates her otherwise from any of the other generic villains present. Wonder Woman faces off against Giganta and Cheetah, but makes no mention of their long histories; neither does Hawkgirl show any recognition of Shadow Thief. In the end, it seems less like DC heroes versus DC villains than a cookie cutter superhero showdown, and I expect more from Justice League of America.

Probably the best chapter of Injustice League is the first, where McDuffie weaves the Injustice League's initial attack in and around the events of Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album. Like The Wedding Album, the story offers an interesting take on the logistics of how hospitals handle injured superheroes; as well, I'm pleased to see McDuffie folding that injured hero, Firestorm, into the Justice League.

I did appreciate that McDuffie picks up on Meltzer's trailing plotlines, offering a nice scene between Vixen and Superman about her missing powers, and also acknowledging Red Tornado's troubles. At the same time, McDuffie's seems hardly to know what to do with Geo-Force, knocking the character out early on and giving him barely a line the rest of the time. As well, though I like having John Stewart in the League, it robs us of the Hal Jordan/Red Arrow relationship that was at the center of Meltzer's initial League. And I also felt new chairman Black Canary got short shrift in the story, with her decisions often superseded by Superman, Batman, and John Stewart among others.

McDuffie's still going strong on the League as of this review, so there's plenty of time for me to warm up to his writing. Here's hoping I like the next one better than this!

[Contains full covers.]

On back now to Countdown, I think, and we'll see where we go from there.

Review: Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, November 10, 2008

[Contains spoilers for Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album.]

I admit, I wondered if the DC Universe really needed a Green Arrow/Black Canary series, and Road to the Altar, while enjoyable overall, really didn't put the value of this series over the top for me. In Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album, however, regular writer Judd Winick returns, and he writes a story that's so sharp, so easily moving, that this series is now on my must-buy list.

Winick writes a Green Arrow/Black Canary story here that, with it's exotic locales and daring escapes, seems almost more suited for the bride's family, Birds of Prey, than the groom's. The main story is helped tremendously by Cliff Chiang's art, with wide open lines that give equal majesty to urban rooftops and tropical islands. The Arrow family must free the kidnapped Oliver Queen in a heist operation that's far more Indiana Jones than Ocean's Eleven, but just the big-screen nature of it is a joy to behold.

This story also contains an amazing amount of emotion, perhaps far more crying and bemoaning of past bad choices than the Green Arrow title's ever seen before. It's to Winick's credit that he makes this work, in part by portraying Ollie as the next step in his evolution as a fighting liberal hippie; as tough as Ollie is, he's not afraid to express his emotions (even, as his family teases, to the annoyance of the people around him). This makes for a story that gets surprisingly sappy quickly, but also that contains far more depth than just a smart-talking slugfest.

I was additionally impressed with how Winick used the rest of the DC Universe in this story. The Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding featured a who's who of heroes, of course (though at times Amanda Conner's art became so cartoony I had trouble telling some heroes from others), but Winick also remained aware throughout the issues of Green Arrow's long history as a hero, and Black Canary's place in the Justice League. Hal Jordan appears to be a regular fixture in this title, as well he should be, along with Batman; it was also quite moving when, in a fit of desperation late in the story, Ollie cries out to Superman for help.

Oliver decides to retire his Green Arrow persona toward the end of this story, a move that I doubt any reader believes will actually remain the case. Having Ollie retire, however, opens Winick to hold a real wedding in the end, that of Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance rather than Green Arrow and Black Canary. I felt at the beginning of this book that the wedding ceremony passed too quick; we learn at the end that it's because Winick saves the best for last. It's not just the first chapter, but this entire book that's a wedding album, and Winick exceeded my expectations for this tale.

[Contains full covers.]

The Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding action doesn't stop, as we check in next with the Justice League ... or, that is, the Injustice League. See you soon!

DC Comics One Year Later trade reviews wrap-up

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I've been asked for a One Year Later wrap-up post, similar to our Infinite Crisis crossover trade reviews wrap up post.

I was pleased to be reminded of the Infinite Crisis wrap-up, as to be honest I've been struggling to find a way to really summarize One Year Later, DC Comics's post-Infinite Crisis line-wide jump-ahead. One Year Later isn't a cross-over per se, nor in the plurality of voices did it really contain overall connected thematic elements.

What did impress me in One Year Later was the greater sense of a shared DC Universe post-Infinite Crisis. Note from early on the presence of Checkmate, which itself contains members of the Justice Society, in both Green Lantern and Green Arrow, and how those two titles reflect each others' events. Similarly there's a greater connection between Nightwing in his own title and Nightwing in Outsiders, and Robin reflects the One Year Later events of Birds of Prey.

Two of the biggest One Year Later events, and the ones that take us through to Countdown to Infinite Crisis, are the re-establishment of the Justice League and the Justice Society. DC's Big Three form both the cornerstone of the Justice League and encourage the Justice Society to re-form; the Big Three's individual One Year Later trades--especially Superman: Up, Up, and Away and Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman?--each reflect the more communal DC Universe with a bevy of guest stars; Batman: Face the Face presents a friendlier Batman that shows a marked change from the pre-Infinite Crisis DCU.

The build-up to Countdown to Infinite Crisis really starts amidst 52, but we also see the presence of the Monitors in Ion: The Torchbearer. The Monitors also make their presence known in Nightwing and Supergirl trades; we find the beginings of Montiors' enemies in Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven, which guest stars the newest Teen Titans. Other big events include a marriage proposal in Green Arrow: The Road to Jericho which comes to fruition during Countdown.

This list ends perhaps a little suddenly with Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter, though that collection does end longtime writer Gail Simone's run on the series. What comes next is the lead-in to Amazons Attack, arguably the first major crossover of the post-Infinite Crisis era. And a crossover, then, breaks the spell of One Year Later, a roughly one-year span where DC Comics interrelated not in the service of some event, but just in the sense that these are superheroes who know one another, and sometimes team up or help each other out.

Below is a list of our Collected Editions One Year Later reviews, presented in roughly chronological order as per our DC Comics Trade Paperback Timeline. Please send any comments or corrections; we hope you enjoy.

Superman: Up, Up, and Away
Batman: Face the Face

JSA: Ghost Stories
Checkmate: A King's Game

Green Arrow
Green Lantern

Nightwing: Brothers in Blood
Outsiders: The Good Fight

Birds of Prey: Perfect Pitch
Robin: Wanted

Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman?

Teen Titans: Titans Around the World
Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive: Lightning in a Bottle

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis: Once and Future
Firestorm, the Nuclear Man: Reborn
Superman: Back in Action

Superman: Camelot Falls

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: Strange Visitor from Another Century
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: Adult Education
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Dominator War
Supergirl: Candor

Catwoman: The Replacements
Catwoman: It's Only a Movie

Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre

Nightwing: Love and War
Supergirl: Identity
Outsiders: Pay as You Go

Ion: The Torchbearer
Ion: The Dying Flame

Blue Beetle: Shellshocked
Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits

Hawkgirl: The Maw

Justice Leage of America: The Tornado's Path
Martian Manhunter: The Others Among Us
Superman/Batman: Enemies Among Us

All-New Atom: My Life in Miniature
All-New Atom: Future/Past

Blue Beetle: Road Trip
The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck

Hawkgirl: Hawkman Returns
Superman: Redemption

Justice Society of America: The Next Age

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters

Batman: Death and the City
Green Arrow: The Road to Jericho
Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devestation
Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter

Review: Batman: The Black Glove collected hardcover (DC Comics)

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Monday, November 03, 2008

[Contains spoilers for Batman: The Black Glove.]

Let me tell you ... Batman: The Black Glove scared the piss out of me.

I think scary comics are a really tough thing to write. A comic can easily be interesting or exciting, sometimes funny or moving--but to write a comic book that will scare you when you're sitting safe at home in your living room, now that seems a tough thing to do. So far I've enjoyed Grant Morrison's Batman run (well, Batman and Son, at least), but The Black Glove truly astounded me.

It was the first of two stories found in Black Glove, that of Batman and the Silver Age Batmen of All Nations trapped on an island and hunted by a killer, that I found so effectively frightening. Morrison plays on old Clue/Murder on the Orient Express tropes here, likely intentionally, isolating his detective among a group of suspects, any of whom could be the killer.

The power of the story comes in well-timed gore and surprises (the killer wearing Mayhew's face, literally, for instance, and the explosion of the Batplane), and also in masterfully quick characterization. Morrison makes us care for the characters quickly--not just Batman and Robin, but also the Knight, Squire, Red Raven, and others--and then just as quickly imperils them; I thought the ticking bomb in Knight's stomach was especially effective.

Of course, this story wouldn't be half as effective as it was without the moody, stylized art of J. H. Williams. Jones offers slow reveals, ever-present shadows, and pages upon pages of art deco action. As the heroes are picked off one by one, Williams had me believing the killer could be lurking anywhere in the corners, just off the edge of the page. Brilliant work by all accounts.

Morrison's second story picks up on threads from Batman and Son, bringing back three mysterious pseudo-Batman. We get much more detail this time around, learning that the policemen were volunteers for failed experiments to create Batman replacements, experiments done by the same doctor who once experimented on Batman, and possibly left within him hypnotic suggestions. While this story was not quite as intense as the first, Morrison reveals the nature of three Batmen while still keeping the reader guessing into Batman: RIP.

The one part of Black Glove I didn't like, perhaps, was the villain Black Glove him- or herself. Batman speculates in the end that the Black Glove might be a hidden mastermind, plotting against the Batman for years; to me, this sounds remarkably like Hush. In addition, I wonder if the Black Glove can really live up to his own hype; when finally revealed, Black Glove will have to have some kind of origin that posits him as a villain for reasons of upbringing or attitude--it just seems that all villains, especially large and hidden ones, ultimately fail to meet their build-up, and I worry that the same may become true here.

[Contains full covers.]

If you're looking for a collection to enjoy around Halloween time, however ... that first story is really scary!

More reviews coming soon. Be here!