Review: Green Lantern: Brightest Day hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In between Blackest Night and the next Green Lantern event, War of the Green Lanterns, the reader might expect to find a bit of quiet, as was writer Geoff Johns's wont in his JSA series, among others. "The New Guardians" storyline collected in Green Lantern: Brightest Day is quieter in the sense that it's an Earth-bound tale and lacks the Corps-crowded panels of Blackest Night. Green Lantern: Brightest Day, however, offers no formal epilogue to Blackest Night, and rather takes its introspection on the run -- it's action-packed, perhaps overly so, and contains sweeping, mythos-altering revelations about the Green Lantern Corps just like Blackest Night did, without a resting point in sight.

[Contains spoilers]

Though the Green Lantern title doesn't rest after Blackest Night -- misses the chance for some lower-tempo issues, even -- Green Lantern: Brightest Day certainly offers a tonal shift. The first few chapters of this ten-issue collection are full of blithe superhero violence -- Lobo guest stars, and you can't get much more blithely violent than that.

Re-reading Blackest Night in single-issue order

Monday, July 25, 2011

As constant readers know, I read the Blackest Night event for the first time in its individual collected hardcovers -- Blackest Night all at once, then Blackest Night: Green Lantern all at once, Green Lantern Corps, and so on. This was not, as many people advised me, the best way to read these stories, but it would be the way that some unsuspecting person might read them if they picked up just Blackest Night at the bookstore, and that was the way I wanted to experience and review them.

As I prepared to continue reading Brightest Day and a number of other books that spin-off from Blackest Night however, I wanted to take an opportunity to read the Blackest Night saga again -- and this time, in order. Using the Blackest Night Reading Order as a guide, I lined up just my Blackest Night, Green Lantern, and Green Lantern Corps hardcovers, and dug in.

It is a different, interesting, better, and worse experience reading Blackest Night in issue-by-issue order. By the time I finished reading the three hardcovers individually, I wasn't confused about any plot points that reading issue by issue illuminated; that is, I didn't gain any greater understanding of the story reading it in order than I did by series. What I felt were unrelated tangents in the individual books still seem to be unrelated tangents read intersected; the places I felt the story marked time book by book it still marks time read together.

It did, however, seem a bit more fluid.

[Contains spoilers]

For instance, the Spectre makes an early appearance in Blackest Night, and then never appears again in that series. He returns for a fantastic two-part story in Green Lantern (well-written by Geoff Johns and moreover magnificently drawn by Doug Mahnke) that's never mentioned in Blackest Night, and as such while the Spectre issues in Green Lantern fit between the pages of Blackest Night, it's clear they're just using up Green Lantern pages while Blackest Night's going on. But whereas the Spectre's appearance in Blackest Night seems incomplete and his appearance in Green Lantern seems unnecessary, read together they make a loose whole that mitigated the problem. Worse, in that it's more obvious, but better, in that it works more cohesively.

In a similar way, Green Lantern John Stewart appears early in Blackest Night and then all but disappears until the end, without much role to play. He gets a single issue all to himself in Green Lantern that doesn't quite work in that, with all the attention on Hal Jordan and Barry Allen and the DC Universe heroes throughout the book, a single issue focusing on just one character right in the middle is too strangely quiet and disconnected. However, reading Blackest Night and Green Lantern interspersed, the John Stewart chapter again serves to unify the two series, and specifically this is an instance where the cliffhanger at the end of the John Stewart Green Lantern issue picks up at the exact same moment in Blackest Night. If it's a little jarring, it's also nicely fluid.

Another example is a late sequence in Blackest Night where Sinestro gains White Lantern powers, proceeds in Green Lantern to lose them, nearly die, and then regain them, and then continues back in Blackest Night as if nothing happened. That issue is strange in Green Lantern because Sinestro doesn't have the White Lantern powers in the chapter before, and then the issue ends with "Continued in Blackest Night," part of what makes the Green Lantern book an awkward reading experience on its own. Now at least, even if the White Lantern Green Lantern issue still seems obviously inconsequential, it does at least gain some context sandwiched between Blackest Night issues.

Indeed, these were the parts of the Blackest Night saga I liked the best -- when Hal left Barry in Blackest Night to seek out additional Lanterns in Green Lantern, when the Indigo Lantern Munk leaves Green Lantern to provide help elsewhere in Green Lantern Corps, and when the Corps abandons their own title entirely to appear in one of Blackest Night's many eye-popping two-page spreads. Though I'm undecided whether the entire Blackest Night saga ought have been collected by series or by issue, there's a unique joy that comes from reading these issues in separate books and have the characters jump -- as if by magic or osmosis -- from one volume to the next and back, something that can only be replicated otherwise by actually reading the separate periodical issues. Maybe there's too much continuity and crossover in comics, but I maintain this kind of overt celebration of a shared universe is the key thing that makes comics distinct from any other media.

There was some discussion on the Collected Editions Facebook page as to whether Green Lantern Corps was quite necessary for an issue-by-issue reading of the Blackest Night saga. Though I myself decided initially that it wasn't necessary -- recalling from my Green Lantern Corps review that Corps only intersects with the main action of Blackest Night toward the end of the book -- I made a last-minute decision to include it in my re-reading. This was influenced largely and subjectively by my remembrance that Munk goes from Green Lantern to Corps and that Corps later re-intersects Blackest Night; I felt no such compunction to trade Dove from Blackest Night to Titans and back, but as the ties between the main series, Lantern, and Corps were so strong (and that Peter Tomasi writes Corps and then Brightest Day with Geoff Johns, and that I'd be reading the new volume of Corps not long after this), I ended up looping it in.

It does inevitably make for some unusual cliffhangers -- Kyle Rayner dies, there's a bunch of action with Barry and Hal in the other books, then we rejoin the struggle to revive Kyle; and also Guy Gardner becomes a Red Lantern, we leave Corps for the two-issue Spectre story in Green Lantern, and then we return to Corps right in the same place.

This latter loop is especially strange (Corps #44, Lantern #50-51, Corps #45), but has more to do with Blackest Night #6 coming before the other issues and Corps #45 dove-tailing right into Blackest Night #7 than it does with any real reason that Lantern should interrupt Corps. Personally, I rather liked reading Lantern #50 and #51 in one sitting, rather like an "extra-sized episode," but probably one could put the two Corps issues together before or after the Lantern issues here and understand the story about the same. Essentially, there's a little wiggle room for re-organization based on personal preference here and elsewhere.

I am still undecided whether I'd have wanted DC to collect Blackest Night as one volume with the main series, Green Lantern, and Corps interspersed. The answer with Corps is likely "probably not," given difficulties like the one above and given that book largely stands on its own. With Blackest Night and Lantern, the answer is closer to "maybe" because interspersing the books benefits Lantern considerably, though not necessarily the main series. Still -- as I might have said the first time around -- the uniformity in the art of the Blackest Night and Green Lantern volumes individually gives each one a distinct identity, and I would find it distracting to be reading one volume where the art kept changing, much like it's distracting in the Sinestro Corps War volumes; that's an argument in favor of DC collecting Blackest Night the way they did.

Overall, I've been impressed with Geoff Johns's "event" writing over the past five years. Infinite Crisis and Blackest Night are significantly more readable than Zero Hour or Final Night, due in large part to Johns focusing the story within the event series, rather than the event series being just a through-way to the events' various crossover titles, as was DC's previous custom. But Johns and company's inter-title crossovers never quite work for me in collected form, as is the case with Sinestro Corps War; even as the different parts lead in to one another, there's such an artificial emphasis on Hal Jordan or the Corps in every other chapter as to seem unnatural (not to mention radically shifting artists).

The same is true, for instance, of the Batman crossover Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul; the general quality of that crossover aside, the necessity to have each chapter focus on a different specific character when numerous titles are involved comes off as artificial when read in a collection (see also Cataclysm, Contagion, and so on). I'd like to see Johns and company write an inter-title crossover more like 52, where each character gets an ongoing subplot, than the current piecemeal approach; in that way, Green Lantern Corps might've fit more naturally with Blackest Night and Green Lantern because they all would've been telling the same story (and if the artists could follow a certain segment of the story across titles, as they did for Batman: No Man's Land, even better).

I like Blackest Night as a story different from the way I like Final Crisis; Final Crisis is cerebral and meta-textual and layered with double-meanings, while Blackest Night is great because it's just the opposite, a DC Comics superhero story not caught up for once in streamlining or correcting DC's continuity. Reading it in single-issue order is not essential, I don't think, but it increases the number of explosions and thrills and near misses, and I think that's worth experiencing. Flashpoint differs from both Blackest Night and Final Crisis in that it has no intersecting series or miniseries whatsoever, just tertiary titles -- if that holds true for DC's next crossover event, somewhere down the line in the newly relaunched DC Universe, maybe we can interpret that as some lesson DC learned from the collection difficulties with Blackest Night.

Don't miss our official Blackest Night review, back when the books first came out, in which I consider among other things the rather strange nationalist sentiment inherit in the Blackest Night story.

We'll continue from here to the Green Lantern and Corps Brightest Day tie-ins, and then Justice League: Generation Lost and more. Don't miss it!

Review: The Invisibles Vol. 5: Counting to None trade paperback (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

[The fifth in our series of guest reviews on Grant Morrison's The Invisibles by Zach King, who blogs about movies as The Cinema King]

With the fifth volume, Counting to None, the seven-volume megaseries The Invisibles begins its road to the final issue. After the resounding success of the last two volumes, Entropy in the U.K. and Bloody Hell in America, Counting to None has a lot of work to do as far as living up to expectations. Fortunately, consistent artwork from Phil Jimenez and more of Grant Morrison's traditionally off-the-wall ideas make the book work, though it's not quite as good as what came before it.

"And so we return and begin again." Counting to None is fairly neatly divided into three sections -- an untitled arc which finally explains Robin's mysterious past; "Sensitive Criminals," in which we meet an Invisibles cell from 1924; and "American Death Camp," in which the Invisibles are betrayed by Boy, who steals the Hand of Fate, a mystical superweapon of great power. In the first, we finally learn that (in case you haven't figured it out already) Ragged Robin is from the future, as the Invisibles rush to defeat armageddon cultists and save Takashi, a scientist destined to discover time travel. In "Sensitive Criminals," King Mob travels back in time to retrieve the Hand of Fate while cooperating with a vintage Invisibles cell, meeting Edith Manning for what might be the first time (depending on your interpretation of "chronology" and "linear time"). Finally, in "American Death Camp," Boy's betrayal surfaces as she undergoes brutal deprogramming that unpeels the layers of her already fractured psyche.

Counting to None is an extremely unpleasant read, with some delightful character moments in the "Sensitive Criminals" arc, but overall the series is beginning to show signs of wear. The characters -- and, the reader senses, Morrison himself -- are all growing disillusioned with their lifestyle; the stylized violence, which had heretofore been as enjoyable as any Hollywood blockbuster (as in Bloody Hell in America, which showed no remorse for its action-hero goriness), takes on a level of grotesque and often senseless grittiness. Both the reader and the Invisibles are starting to realize the inherent ugliness in their world and their way of life, epitomized brilliantly by the "little sliver of Quimper" infecting Ragged Robin after the events of the last volume's raid on Dulce. The discomfort is accomplished largely thanks to artist Phil Jimenez's extremely nuanced pencils, which spare no corpuscle of blood but rather blast gunshot wounds and arterial sprays in lavishly ornate detail.

When even King Mob expresses discomfort with, for example, the psychological torture Boy undergoes, the series is headed toward a different kind of conclusion. It's not unlike the moment in the Star Wars trilogy when Luke Skywalker decides not to fight his father but forgive him; similarly, each of the Invisibles is beginning to realize that their approach may be all wrong, that physical violence may need to be subordinated to psychological warfare -- "ontological terrorism," as King Mob puts it. The effect is such that the trip to 1924 practically feels like a vacation; the Invisibles cell of that era is fresh and entertaining, and we finally get to meet some of the characters we've been hearing so much about (Beryl Wyndham, for instance, who's eventually central to the cosmology of the whole series).

But for readers who aren't accustomed to Morrison's esoteric style -- and even for those of us who've read nearly everything he's ever written -- Counting to None marks the volume at which the series begins to get very strange indeed. Almost as if he knows the end is coming (and perhaps the writer really felt this way, with the impending millennium and all its magical connotations facing his publishing schedule), Morrison begins to take stock of the cards still up his sleeve and throws them into the story without devoting too much attention to the details. On repeat readings, things like Takashi's time machine or the Harlequin -- mysterious figures in a variety of disguises, who seem to know everything there is to know -- don't make much sense, and Morrison doesn't seem too invested in unpacking them. Perhaps the best manifestation of this is the short tale which concludes this volume, "And We're All Policemen," which seems not to fit into Invisibles continuity and which remains, for me, entirely a mystery.

There are, however, answers in this volume -- the truth about the relationship between King Mob and Edith Manning begins to unwrap itself, and by the end of the volume there's no question to whom Boy owes her allegiance -- but increasingly they're no longer the focus of the series. Instead, Morrison seems more interested in interrogating our notions of how the world works, layering his own unique philosophy over our own and ultimately asking questions about the nature of reality itself. Diehards might not object, but less cooperative readers may find the series getting a bit too heavy. With Counting to None, The Invisibles is becoming a series about, rather than simply with, a message. This certainly isn't the series we began reading in Say You Want a Revolution . . . ,but at this point I'm not entirely convinced that's a bad thing. In retrospect, it's jarring, to say the least.

[Contains full covers and a "Story Thus Far" page. Printed on non-glossy paper.]

That's Volume Five, loyal readers. Up next: Kissing Mister Quimper, in which the series begins to conclude itself, but not before wading through some murky territory -- and bringing us back to that nasty diminutive devil, Quimper.

Read Zach's full Invisibles review series. Next week, join us as we begin to delve back into Brightest Day and its related tie-ins. Don't miss it!

Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibuses, Deluxe WILDCATS, classic Deathstroke in DC Early 2012 solicitations

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Go on, call it the "Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus." You know you want to.

Among the latest DC Comics collections solicitations news is Batman & Son vs. The Black Glove, a hardcover collection which must undoubtedly collect the individual Batman & Son and Batman: The Black Glove hardcovers.

Two previous collections in one? Sounds like the start of a "Batman by Grant Morrison" omnibus series to me ...

* Don't miss our recent news on the Flashpoint and DC: The New 52 collections, and the Flashpoint tie-in hardcover collections. *

Collecting Around the DC Relaunch
No word on collections of DC Relaunch material just yet (they have only solicited the second issues, after all!), but obviously DC's 2012 collection plans contain a couple of books meant to pick up on DC Relaunch excitement.

* WILDC.A.T.S. Vol. 1 Deluxe Edition
* Stormwatch Vol. 1

Both of these are hardcover, and it hardly seems fair (to me) that WILDC.A.T.S. warrants the oversized deluxe format while Stormwatch is just a "regular" hardcover; I'm personally more interested in Stormwatch. I'm sure it has mostly to do with the fact that Jim Lee provides art on WILDC.A.T.S., and not on Stormwatch.

* Deathstroke, The Terminator: Assassins
* Hawk & Dove: Ghosts & Demons

We've just been talking on this blog lately about whether we might ever see additional collections of the Karl Kesel Hawk and Dove or Marv Wolfman Deathstroke series. I do have some concern that Hawk & Dove: Ghosts and Demons might just be a reprint of the existing Hawk & Dove collection (collecting the initial miniseries) since the first issue of that mini was titled "Ghosts and Demons." The second story arc in Wolfman's classic Deathstroke series (after the collected Deathstroke: Full Cycle) was called "City of Assassins," so I'm holding out hope that the above Deathstroke collection contains newly-collected material.

* Resurection Man Vol. 1
* I, Vampire

DC's also starting a collection series, apparently, of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's first Resurrection Man series, in time for this character's DC Relaunch rebirth. Though the original series lasted twenty-seven issues (plus a DC One Million tie-in), I don't recall it garnering much acclaim, as opposed to Chase published about the same time. DC's motivation, of course, is the relaunch, but to an extent I see this as the very kind of bloating DC's trade list that Brian Hibbs complained about recently.

Admittedly I have no frame of reference for J.M. DeMatteis's I, Vampire, or what connection there might be between the old and new DC Relaunch series. Undoubtedly this makes someone happy.

Did someone say something about a movie?
With The Dark Knight Rises on the horizon, it seems like every other trade coming out from DC these days is Batman-centric (compare their Batman output with their Superman, Wonder Woman, and even Green Lantern output, a result to be sure of how many Batman periodicals they publish at the front end).

* Batman Versus Bane
* Catwoman: Vol. 1

Two most specifically movie-related include these Bane and Catwoman collections. Bane is another we've been clamoring for here on the site, and will hopefully contain the Chuck Dixon Vengeance of Bane and Bane miniseries that have languished in DC limbo for a while now (what can bring DC and Chuck Dixon back together? A high profile movie can bring DC and Chuck Dixon back together).

The Catwoman collection, while paperback (for now), looks to bring together some of the separate Catwoman collections by Ed Brubaker, and will hopefully go farther than where Catwoman: Wild Ride ended. I wouldn't be surprised if the graphic novel Selina's Big Score ends up here, too.

* Batman: Dark Knight Vol. 1 Deluxe
* Batman: Gates of Gotham

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. I have really no interest whatsoever in DC's umpteen Batman titles, and specifically the most recent, Dark Knight, which (A) seems mostly there for movie-name recognition and (B) will only last five issues before it's somewhat ridiculously restarted for the DC Relaunch. That said, I do love DC's deluxe hardcover format -- big enough to be widescreen, small enough that you're not reading with a brick on your lap a la their Absolute format. So when I see Batman: Dark Knight Deluxe, likely collecting the five pre-relaunch issues of this series ... it gives me pause.

Ditto for Scott Synder's Detective Comics. I mean, Greg Rucka did a bang-up job with his Batwoman stories on Detective while Grant Morrison wrote the main Batman story in Batman & Robin, but I do at some point get tired of DC releasing what are obviously tertiary Batman stories when the forward action is taking place in one title only. However -- people are raving about Snyder's Detective, and also I'm fairly interested in the "first families of Gotham" stories taking place in Gates of Gotham and filtering in, as I understand it, to Detective (not to mention that I'll probably sample Synder's DC Relaunch Batman, which I believe also ties in to Gates). So despite my reluctance, chances are I'm in for this one.

* Batman & Robin: Dark Knight, White Knight
* Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution
* Batman: Gotham Shall Be Judged
* Gotham City Sirens: Division

No doubt some of these collect right up to the DC Relaunch, and bear an update of our "Trade-Waiting at the End of the Universe" post. Gotham Shall Be Judged seems to contain, at least, the recent three-part Batman/Red Robin/Gotham City Sirens crossover.

* Batman: Birth of the Demon
* Batman: Through the Looking Glass
* Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 1

Is it interesting or coincidental that DC plans a reprint of Batman: Birth of the Demon around the time Dark Knight Rises is to come out? The book is accompanied by a picture of the most recent Son of the Demon printing, and credit goes to both Mike Barr and Dennis O'Neil -- maybe this is a grand collection of the entire Batman: Demon saga.

More from the End of the Universe
* Superman: Reign of Doomsday
* War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath

We can now see the recent "Doomsday" crossover between Action Comics and Steel, Outsiders, Justice League of America, Superman/Batman and Superboy will be collected with all the latter issues in a Return of Doomsday paperback, and the Action Comics issues in a hardcover bannered with writer Paul Cornell's name.

War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath lists both Tony Bedard and Peter Tomasi as its writers (it's a former DC Editors party!), so chances are we've got both the Aftermath series and related issues from Green Lantern Corps or Emerald Warriors here.

* Green Arrow: Salvation
* Justice Society of America: Monument Point
* Power Girl: Old Friends
* Red Robin: Seven Days of Death
* Secret Six: The Darkest House
* Titans: Broken Promises
* Wonder Woman: Odyssey Vol. 2

These, too, no doubt run up right to the DC relaunch in most cases.

Various and Sundry
* Flash Omnibus by Geoff Johns Vol. 2
* Justice League International Vol. 7

* DC Universe: Secret Origins
* DCU by Alan Moore

Last but definitely not least, the next Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibus lands in 2012, as does the next (paperback, sadly) edition of Justice League International. JLI is still a ways away from its "Breakdowns" finale; Flash ought collect the Rogues and Crossfire trades, about issues #177-191.

Hard to say what we're looking at with Secret Origins -- I'd like to see a collection of the 1980s series, but that would seem ill-timed amidst the DC Relaunch. The Alan Moore book has seen multiple reprintings, but this is the first time, I believe, it's in hardcover.

Whew, quite the list! Between these and the Flashpoint collection and the DC: The New 52 hardcover, what will you be picking up?

Also this

Flashpoint and Flashpoint tie-in collection details solicited

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Right on the heels of news that DC Comics will release a massive 1,216 page collection of all their September #1 issues in December, and confirmation that DC will release the hardcover collection of the Flashpoint event in October, comes word that DC will release (at least) five hardcovers collecting the Flashpoint tie-in series ... next March.

This means that whereas Flashpoint concludes at the end of August, DC's relaunch begins in September, and fans can read the Flashpoint collection essentially one month later in October, it will be essentially six months later (when DC's new #1s reach #7) that trade fans can read the tie-in issues.

Despite that some of the Flashpoint tie-in books introduce concepts that will continue into the new DC Universe, I think DC's waiting too long to release these. These books tended toward irrelevance anyway in the shadow of the DC relaunch, and delaying them this long only worsens that; also, to release the the main Flashpoint collection and then to release its tie-ins six months later must affect reader enjoyment of the story as a whole (imagine if they'd done the same for Blackest Night!).

On to the books, however -- here's a list of what's been solicited so far:

* Flashpoint

* Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Batman
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

Chances are this contains more than just Azzarello and Risso's Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance miniseries. I'd venture we'll see JT Krul's Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons here, too.

* Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Green Lantern
Pornsak Pichetshote and Mark Castiello

Interestingly, the Flashpoint: Green Lantern collection lists as its author Pornsak Pichetshote, the writer of the Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries one-shot. I think it's a safe bet we'll see Adam Schlagman's Flashpoint: Abin Sur - The Green Lantern and Flashpoint: Hal Jordan here.

* Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash
Sean Ryan and Ig Guara

Again, early notes have this as written by Sean Ryan, who's only contributing the Flashpoint: Grodd of War one-shot. There's a lot that could also be in this one -- Sterling Gates's Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost, or Scott Kolins' Flashpoint: Reverse-Flash one-shot or Flashpoint: Citizen Cold miniseries.

* Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder Woman
Tony Bedard and Ardian Syaf

Tony Bedard writes Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #1–3, while Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning write Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies. Unless we see a Flashpoint: Aquaman collection come down the pike, probably this is where we'll find both miniseries.

* Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Superman
Mike Carlin and Rags Morales

Carlin is only the writer of the Flashpoint: The Canterbury Cricket one-shot, so possibly that's collected here along with Scott Synder's Flashpoint: Project: Superman and Abnett and Lanning's Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance, or another of the more Superman-centric Flashpoint miniseries.

On the horizon ...
That still leaves a number of Flashpoint miniseries potentially unaccounted for, including most notably villain books like Flashpoint: Legion of Doom and Flashpoint: Frankenstein & the Creatures of the Unknown. You heard it here first -- keep watching Collected Editions, and we'll update as soon as there's new information.

UPDATE 11/14/11 - DC Comics solicitations reveal these books will contain all the Flashpoint miniseries plus issues of Booster Gold, arriving in stores in March 2012 along with the Flashpoint paperback.

Which books will you be buying? How would you like to see Flashpoint and its tie-ins collected? Still considering that giant $150 paperweight?

DC Solicits Flashpoint hardcover, DC Comics: The New 52 Collection

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ever since DC Comics announced their September relaunch, collected comics fans have been wondering when we might get to enjoy the new first issues ... but I don't think anyone imagined this.

As revealed on the DC Comics Source blog and in DC's October solicitations, October sees not just the Flashpoint collected hardcover, but also a massive 1,216 page, $150 hardcover collecting all fifty-two of DC's new number ones in one volume, called DC Comics: The New 52.

It is, frankly, a rather staggering prospect.

As originally reported in Bleeding Cool, DC also solicited a hardcover of the five-issue Flashpoint miniseries, due in stores October 19. Due in stores just a month and a half after the Flashpoint series folds, this is an unusually quick turnaround to collection for DC -- spurred on no doubt by publicity and fan interest in the September relaunch, and not a sign of other quick turnarounds to come.

But let's talk about the 1,216 page (!), $150 (!) hardcover some more, shall we?

I am right now on the fence about buying it. On one hand, the hardcover is a wonderful (if pricey) memento of this significant moment in DC Comics history. Comics are transitory, and twenty years down the road I'm not sure a hardcover of DC's fifty-two new number ones will be so meaningful when they release fifty-two number ones all over again. But in the moment, caught up in all the excitement, this book would be a cool thing to have.

On the other hand, this collection is a memento only. From what I understand, the fifty-two issues will be self-contained and not feed in to one another; there won't be much issue-to-issue enjoyment reading this book front to back. Further, as it's just the first issue of each series, readers like me will be returning to the well not long after to buy each individual series' collection -- so this is a keepsake and not a viable replacement for some other way of reading these books.

(I would add this would be a lot easier sell for me if it had commentary, designs, something to make it not just a collection of the fifty-two issues, but indeed more of a collectable book about the relaunch endeavor overall.)

Still, I admire DC Comics's ambition with this. This is the first shot across the bow for what I expect to be big collected comics releases for DC's "new fifty-two," and I'm glad to be along for the ride.

Here's the original solicitations. Will you be lugging the New 52 collection around your home?


Written by GEOFF JOHNS
On sale OCTOBER 19 • 176 pg, FC, $22.99 US
The red-hot, sold-out five-issue miniseries from Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert is back in a new hardcover!
This is Flash Fact: When Barry Allen wakes at his desk, he discovers the world has changed. Family is alive, loved ones are strangers, and close friends are different, gone or worse. It’s a world on the brink of a cataclysmic war – but where are Earth’s Greatest Heroes to stop it?
It’s a place where America’s last hope is Cyborg, who hopes to gather the forces of The Outsider, The Secret 7, S!H!A!Z!A!M!, Citizen Cold and other new and familiar-yet-altered faces! It’s a world that could be running out of time, if The Flash can’t find the villain who altered the time line!


Written by VARIOUS
Cover by JIM LEE
On sale DECEMBER 7 • 1,216 pg, FC, $150.00 US
In September, DC Comic will launch 52 new #1 issues starring the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes! In December, to commemorate this incredible event, DC is collecting every one of these debut issues in a once-in-a-lifetime massive hardcover that includes:

• JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee
• ACTION COMICS #1 by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales
• BATMAN #1 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
• GREEN LANTERN #1 by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke
• SWAMP THING #1 by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette
• STORMWATCH #1 by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda
• TEEN TITANS #1 by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth
• And 45 more!

Review: Iron Man: Armor Wars trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

[Guest review by Doug Glassman]

Like many long-running comic book characters, Iron Man has a cyclical history. Tony Stark’s alcoholism is one recurring problem, resulting in two major story arcs, “Demon in a Bottle” and the “Stane Saga," the latter of which provided the villain Obidiah Stane for the first Iron Man film. Another, even longer-running problem is Stark’s difficulty in keeping his technology out of the hands of his enemies. This is one of the major themes of the current Invincible Iron Man series and was also a major plot point in the second Iron Man film. However, Stark’s insecurities are well-founded, and they mostly stem from one of the most famous Iron Man storylines: “Stark Wars.”

Newcomers to the franchise might be asking: “Don’t you mean ‘Armor Wars?’” Yes, this collection is better known (and titled) as Armor Wars, and in fact, Marvel solicited an “Armor Wars II” which took up much of John Byrne’s time on the title a few years later. But the story is officially called “Stark Wars," mostly as a pun on Star Wars.

Iron Man’s epic vendetta begins when his enemy Force becomes an ally and Stark discovers that Force's armor has elements of Stark’s designs. Many were leaked when Stane took over Stark’s company, and they are now in the possession of Justin Hammer, who applies them to the armors of his henchmen. After an unsuccessful court battle, Stark is able to procure files on the whereabouts of his technology from fellow Avenger Ant-Man -- all except one file. What happens next can best be described as a roaring rampage of revenge as Iron Man goes from one villain to the next, shorting out their armor and trying to locate the last user. He loses his reputation, teammates and even has to fake his own death before he finally finishes his quest.

The modern Iron Man is essentially defined here, starting with Stark’s infamous Jheri curl, which my generation remembers as his hairstyle on the Iron Man animated series. Thanks to colorist Nel Yomtov (every Transformers fan just shuddered), everyone who has black hair has it rendered blue; this includes Stark and Rhodes. You eventually get desensitized to it. After years of using the distinctive Silver Centurion armor, Stark switches back to the red and gold which he will wear almost exclusively through the present day. (The major exception to this is War Machine, but that armor has become so connected to Jim Rhodes that it almost goes forgotten that Stark wore it first.) He uses multiple armor types extensively for the first time, including the well-known Deep Sea and Stealth Armors.

More importantly, this is where Stark'ss paranoia and controlling tendencies come to the forefront. The weight of the deaths orchestrated by his technology being misused sends him into a frenzy, eventually causing Stark to kill someone himself; by this point, Stark had been fighting his past as a weapons maker for years. As a recovering alcoholic, Stark'ss control issues dominate his personality during this story. His guilt and feelings of ineffectiveness are best demonstrated in the last part of this trade. A coda with incredible art by Barry Windsor-Smith consists of Stark’s haunted nightmare of the crimes he feels responsible for and his attempt to get past this part of his life. You can tell that while he admits out in the open that he wants to put his troubles behind him, he never quite gets there.

“Armor Wars” features a huge amount of Marvel Universe supporting characters, guest stars and villains. The Beetle becomes part of Iron Man’s rogues gallery, and other featured villains include the Controller, the Raiders, Stilt-Man, Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo. Very early on, Stark also considers Doctor Doom as a culprit; the story never picks up on this, and to be honest, I feel including featuring Doom would have derailed the plot. Iron Man also attacks a number of heroes, including SHIELD’s Mandroids, the Guardsman, the Captain and Stingray. For those unfamiliar with late-80s Marvel Comics, the Captain is Captain America, who gave up his name and uniform after refusing to follow the orders of the United States government. The man who replaced him would later take the black Captain uniform and become U.S. Agent. Stingray is, well, very minor, a government-employed ocean-based ally of Namor and an Avenger for a brief period. Armor Wars is Stingray’s finest moment, and at least he is visually interesting.

Speaking of visuals, David Michelinie’s second run on Iron Man also brings back his frequent co-writer and finisher, Bob Layton, this time joined by Mark D. Bright. Layton’s art remains one of the most influential Iron Man art styles. It is hard to define this style; I like to call it “angled roundness," drawing a near-perfect balance between the very round armor of Jack Kirby and the sharper suits of Adi Granov. The most similar artist I can think of is Jim Aparo, although Layton’s characters lack Aparo’s long, thin heads. My policy is that every Iron Man artist has the right to create their own armor, and Layton’s new creation at the end of the series is known as the Modern Armor for its longevity. The shoulderpads (though not as bulky as the Silver Centurion suit), the angled red chest chevron, the heavily-outlined unibeam and “popped” collar would remain in effect for years, even when Stark had to move to a remote-controlled unit. The main new villain of the story is Firepower, whose bulk invokes the Iron Monger. It is an interesting design, even though it has a massive rocket strapped to its back for most of the story.

Armor Wars is the definitive Iron Man story, adding some extra action to the same introspective nature of “Demon in a Bottle”. Quite simply, the entire character of Iron Man changes in this story to become the character we know today, and it is entirely for the better. If you are at all interested in Iron Man, whether through the comics or films, Armor Wars is a mandatory read. At $24.99, it may seem a little steep for what appears to be a thin trade, but Layton’s art fits a lot of panels in a very small space.

For a final remark, it is amazing the publicity one film can create. Before the first Iron Man film came out, you were lucky to find old Marvel Masterworks editions and the occasional Mask in the Iron Man trade. Now, the Iron Man section of your local comic book store has dozens of Iron Man trades, collecting both the newest arcs and the “Golden Age” of the 1980s and mid-1990s. All we need are “Crash and Burn” and “Hands of the Mandarin” trades to truly have a full appreciation of the best years of the Iron Man title.

Re: Tilting at Windmills for 7-15-11

Friday, July 15, 2011

Brian Hibbs's Tilting at Windmills column today on Comic Book Resources examines difficulties in stocking and selling trades at comic book stores, and in negotiating the comics publishers' ever-growing backlists. I don't have to tell you Brian Hibbs is an industry expert and knows of what he speaks, and I take on faith all the difficulties he describes are entirely accurate.

Respectfully, however, I think Hibbs misrepresents the consumer interest in trades here (or, at least, my personal consumer interest in trades). Yes, as Hibbs writes, trade paperbacks used to just encompass major events, but the ubiquity of trades now doesn't necessarily mean periodicals are a means to the trade paperback end; I see them as separate entities.

As a alternative to the expanding list of collections that publishers offer, many of which sell slowly, Hibbs suggests publishers state outright they'll only collect stories that sell well in periodicals (let's not mistake, Hibbs by no means calls for the abolition of trades). But as a trade reader, I want to decide firsthand what I buy or don't buy based on interest, not availability. In Hibbs's suggestion, DC would only release a Weird Worlds trade, for instance, if the single issues sold well; periodical readers thereby "pre-select" what a trade reader gets to read.

I suggest the opposite: Publishers ought commit to releasing everything they publish in trade, no matter how large or small, with faith it's going to sell because it's quality work that they stand behind and support. Hibbs states that readers wait for a trade and then don't buy it because they no longer have an interest, but the solution is not to base the potential for a trade on periodical sales. A company shouldn't publish a series at all unless they feel it bears enough consequence that they're willing to chase after the reader both to sell the periodical and to sell the trade. Publishers shouldn't deny  a reader the manner in which they want to read a publisher's material; instead the solution is to make this material better so a reader feels compelled to read it in whatever form they see fit.

If not already, be sure to read Hibbs's column over at Comic Book Resources.

Review: Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quite fortunately, former DC Comics president Paul Levitz's first real outing on the newest (re)incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes is a thousand times better than his lackluster Superboy and the Legion prelude. Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice is a long, detailed collection filled with xeno-political goodness; with the original team back in the spotlight, this could very well be the best incarnation of the Legion we've seen in over two decades.

[Contains spoilers]

My own opinion is that the Legion of Super-Heroes title can't work completely cut off from the events of the ongoing DC Universe; there's barely another title in publication right now that would be as closed off as that. That after September's DC relaunch we'll have a Legion Lost title specifically set in the present DC Universe suggests someone in editorial agrees. From the start of The Choice, Levitz establishes the Legion's proximity to the DC Universe proper with (albeit nonspecific) references to Flashpoint. A main plot point of Choice involves Green Lantern Corps's Sodam Yat and the search for the next Green Lantern; in this way, Legion feels connected to its fellow titles, and not entirely disconnected.

As well, one of Choice's major subplots involves acolytes of Darkseid kidnapping Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad's children, tying Choice directly to Legion's most noted storyline, The Great Darkness Saga. It doesn't hurt that the kidnappers in question look (hilariously, to Levitz's credit) like Jack Kirby's Simyan and Mokkari and the illusionary visage of Darkseid himself appears a couple of times. The effect, again, is for Choice to feel connected -- to major recent DC milestones like Final Crisis and Blackest Night specifically -- such that a new Legion reader might get the sense that these stories, too, "matter."

With this volume, Levitz distinguishes Legion from standard super-hero fare; if it were just another super-hero team book but set in the future, it might not hold my interest quite as well. Choice involves only one super-villain, well at the beginning, and otherwise revolves around the United Planets' mandate that the Legion induct their enemy Earth-Man as one of their members, how Earth-Man fits in, and the politics of settling a million displaced refugees from the planet Titan. The basis of the Legion concept has always been how characters from different cultures find common ground, and now the Legion is the only unified force in an increasingly fractured universe. This plays out more through how the Legionnaires interact than in their fights with nondescript rebels, making The Choice foremost a wonderful character drama.

The "choice" in question in the story is largely Earth-Man's. Though ardently xenophobic in Geoff Johns's Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Earth-Man appears to have mellowed by the time Choice begins, readily accepting Legion membership. His struggle to define his duty on his own terms, even trying and then refusing the role of Earth's Green Lantern, is the most interesting part of Choice, with Earth-Man the breakout character (one cover included, with Earth-Man leading the Legion, is eerily prescient). Still, that Earth-Man seems to be a true, honest Legionnaire by the end of this book (and even over his xenophobia, sleeping with the alien Shadow Lass) seems too easy, and it wasn't clear to me if the reader was to understand Earth-Man's change as honest, or if Earth-Man is being mind-controlled by Brainiac 5 or another Legionnaire.

In fact, my main complaint (though small) about The Choice were the moments of disconnect where I felt I'd missed something, either in an uncollected backup story or by not being as familiar with Legion lore. Some Legionnaires, like Matter-Eating Lad, have resigned without explanation; Lighting Lad has gone in search of his brother's missing twin (though when he found out about the twin we don't know); Shadow Lass has broken up with Mon-El; Tyroc has suddenly returned with new control over his powers, and more. Also, the book's cliffhanger turns on a seemingly minor character, Harmoni Li, perhaps being a time traveler, but it's Brainiac 5 who finds this out, when I don't believe Brainiac 5 meets Li anywhere in the book. It's these things, which Choice presents as a matter of course, which brought me a little out of the book, but not so much I wasn't able to find my way back.

I'd also add that The Choice, enjoyable as it is, just ends, without any real run-up to the finale; then Phil Jimenez draws an epilogue to the main story (perfectly penned by Yildiray Cinar, who will be perfect on the new Firestorm). Levitz seems to write each Legion issue as a self-contained chapter with ties to the ongoing story, which is a fine approach and contributes to Choice reading different from a standard six-issue, one story trade -- but it does bring the book to a sudden, anti-climactic stop. Obviously DC is making a big push for this revitalization of the Legion, collecting the six issues on nice paper with a considerably cover gallery and sketchbook section, but they've kept the credits at the beginning of each issue -- this lends itself more to Choice as a collection of single issues than a graphic novel, though it's a substantial book irrespective.

[Contains original and variant covers, sketchbook section, and a wonderful reprint of Cinar's Legion tryout art where the Legion goes up against a certain New Titans villain ...]

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice reminds me of what I liked about Jim Shooter's recent Legion run -- an expansive space epic with more talking and back-room double-dealing than fighting -- but this time, the story involves the Legion. Levitz's Superboy and the Legion made me concerned about his upcoming Legion run -- let alone whether a writer best known for his work in the 1970s-1980s could write in the "modern" style. The dialogue is at times a little stiff, but the story is good, and there's lots of it; consider me relieved, and looking forward to the next volume.

Review: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Former DC Comics president Paul Levitz's Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years is a weird little book. It is at times too juvenile, a throwback perhaps to the Silver Age era of comics in which most of the stories are set, and then at other times inappropriately adult. From story to art to vague ties to Legion of Super-Heroes continuity, this book suffers numerous difficulties; just a few months from now, DC means to relaunch all of their titles in a way to appeal to new readers, but it's hard to believe the same creators who released the insular Superboy and the Legion will be able to polish their stories for new readers as easily as saying so.

[Contains spoilers]

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes tries to be both an authentic re-telling and also an updating of some classic early Legion moments, but the two goals are quickly contradictory. The most startling example is in the third chapter, where Saturn Girl -- historically Lightning Lad's romantic foil -- has a drunken one-night stand with Cosmic Boy after a mission-gone-wrong, and then erases his memory of the liaison. This is just after a sequence in the first chapter where Phantom Girl chastely offers Superboy a peck in exchange for winning a baseball game, and Saturn Girl and Triplicate Girl pout in the background that they couldn't deliver the kiss themselves. The book doesn't seem to know what it wants its baseline tone to be -- are these a collection of Silver Age throwback stories where the punchline is Phantom Girl giving an embarrassed Superboy a kiss, or a (perhaps unnecessary) modernization of the Legion where the characters act in modern fashion and casual sex abounds?

Further, the third issue sequence is veritable gauntlet-throwing by classic Legion-writer Levitz, altering fifty years of Legion history in "revealing" that Saturn Girl slept with Cosmic Boy long before she ever cast an eye toward Lightning Lad. Used as part of a greater storyline, this might be startling or engaging, but instead it's puerile; first, that Saturn Girl had sex with her future-husband's best friend, made him forget it, and then kept the secret for all these years, and second, that Levitz's "secret origin" of the Legion must involve the sole female founding member's sexual congress, instead of some Legion-related secret or pact that Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy might've kept. Levitz declares the "new hipness" of the resurrected classic Legion a bit too loudly, with a story that acts out like a child trying to pretend they're an adult now.

This confusion of intent and presentation extends throughout the book. Ostensibly Superboy intends to update Legion of Super-Heroes stories from the early 1960s Adventure Comics #247 to #304 -- from the team's formation through to the "Death of Lightning Lad" story (later resurrected). Exactly what and how it updates wasn't clear to me, only a casual Legion reader, and I imagine won't be clear to most readers. Saturn Girl gains a long-standing rivalry with Zaryan the Conqueror, earlier than when Zaryan killed Lightning Lad ... but why is that change necessary or important, and what should the reader take from it? Levitz also plays up the roles of Mon-El and Dream Girl in these early stories (not sure if this is "historically" accurate or another change), but again the relevance isn't quite clear. While the chapters are a good example of individual issues that together tell a larger tale, the pieces never feel entirely connected -- it's only in retrospect that we learn Mon-El was haunting Superboy or Dream Girl sent a message to Saturn Girl, without sufficient context for the revelations.

I also bristled at one other revelation, in the only story here set during the "present" Legion continuity instead of in the past (where, incongruously, the adult Legion is still spending time with the young Superboy). In a holographic message, the recently-assassinated Legion founder RJ Brande reveals that -- previous continuity to the contrary -- he specifically created the Legion for the purpose of getting to meet Superboy. Again, I'm not sure what positive purpose this revelation serves, though it undercuts the idea of the Legion as an example of inter-culture unity, a kind of space-faring Peace Corp; rather Brande's express purpose was more personal and seemingly selfish. Levitz writes Brande with a halting speech pattern that I'm guessing is true to character, but was jarring to me since I'm more familiar with Mark Waid's mid-1990s Legion "Threeboot" where Brande spoke normally.

That particular story ends with the adult Brainiac 5 tearfully realizing Brande actually did like him all along -- something I didn't realize was in question, and given fifty years of Legion history, also seems a kind of easy and inconsequential revelation. I made the mistake, perhaps, of re-reading Geoff Johns's Superman and the Legion and Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds prior to this book, and so the differences between the two writers' approaches is all the more apparent. In not many more pages, Johns makes the Legion dynamic and real (see when Brainiac finally cracks a smile on Colu in Three Worlds), whereas Levitz's feels flat and melodramatic; that's a disappointment after such a great lead-in.

And, while I hate to find fault with a book across the board, the art too seems to me insufficient for the level DC claims to want for their relaunched titles. Main book artist Kevin Sharpe's work is fine here for the most part, at times resembling the chiseled detail of Shane Davis; Eduardo Pansica's fill-in on one issue set mostly in Smallville is cute, but perhaps too cutesy, and in the Legion Espionage Squad's action sequences the faces become distorted. Both artists are suited to the (mostly) "kiddie" tone of these stories, but neither art style is spectacular enough to grip a reader off the street presented with a comic. I don't expect every artist to look like the work of Jim Lee (or Frank Quitely, Dan Jurgens, Nicola Scott, Pete Woods, JH Williams, Francis Manapul, or others), but overall this book didn't seem up to mainstream standards.

For the relaunch to work, DC can't afford any false starts, and that's essentially what Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes is. This was headed somewhere, but didn't quite get there, and is more likely in my opinion to discourage a potential reader than to make them want to read more. Paul Levitz's new Legion run seems to be popular overall, so my hope is that his first volume of the ongoing series, Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice, is back up to the bar that Geoff Johns set. If not, I can't imagine how DC will rectify it all before the relaunch comes.

[Contains original covers. Printed on glossy paper.]

That said -- coming up next, our review of Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice.

Review: Time Masters: Vanishing Point trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Dan Jurgens's Time Masters: Vanishing Point, in contrast to the original Time Masters miniseries, offers a rather touching portrayal of Rip Hunter as a young boy whose childhood is built on time travel, and then again as an adult doing his best to preserve the family business. Constant readers know one of my comics soft spots is Dan Jurgens drawing the time-traveling heroes he popularized in Superman and elsewhere, so this is a book I'm predisposed to enjoy even if just for the art.

Aside from the Rip Hunter vignettes, however, Time Masters: Vanishing Point is somewhat thin. Though billed with connections to Return of Bruce Wayne and Flashpoint, it offers significant exploration of neither. There's a good amount of story that, though drawn well and tied to esoteric DC Comics continuity, ultimately doesn't affect much and seems only there to pad out the pages. And while Jurgens has written Booster Gold well in his own series, there's a certain stiffness to some of the other characters that's surprising.

[Contains spoilers]

Vanishing Point is essentially a continuation of Dan Jurgens's Booster Gold run, told from Rip Hunter's point of view; it probably would have made a lovely Time Masters one-shot. Rip, as revealed in Booster Gold, is Booster's son, and the elder Booster still lives and fights his own battles through time even as Rip works to guide his young father to greatness. Each chapter of Vanishing Point opens with scenes of Rip's childhood, how being the son of a time traveler exposed him to wonders of greatness but also left him without a home and often in constant danger.

What comes through is the adult Rip's love of his father and his dedication to his cause of preserving the time stream. Rip is neither Superman nor Batman -- neither a stranger to his own birthright nor acting from a sense of tragedy or guilt; rather Rip likes his parents, makes them proud, and does his job because he was taught it was right. This is refreshing and fascinating, and the times that Jurgens pulls back the curtain to show the emotional sides of Rip that the DC heroes don't get to see are the best parts of this book.

Unfortunately, those Rip Hunter scenes only account for about two pages per issue. Most of the rest of the book offers a convoluted wild goose chase in which Rip, Booster, Skeets, Superman, and Green Lantern Hal Jordan purportedly set out in search of the time-lost Bruce Wayne, but are instead almost immediately side-tracked. The team encounters Claw the Unconquered and DC Comics's "sword and sorcery" Starfire, both late of the 1970s Star Hunters series, and with them fight a pair of wizards up to no good.

This takes up pretty much most of the series, and then ultimately Claw and Starfire have no bearing on the end of the story. Maybe Jurgens intends to use them again later, but for now their only role seems to be to give the heroes something to do before they start off again after Bruce Wayne at the book's end.

Far more interesting -- but ultimately not much more relevant -- is "Time Stealers" Black Beetle, Despero, Per Degaton, and Ultra-Humanite's jaunt through time. It's not entirely clear what the latter villains are doing here -- they last appeared in Geoff Johns's Booster Gold and Justice League stories -- as even Black Beetle, when asked, can't quite explain why he needs them. They make nice window dressing, however, while Black Beetle frees the imprisoned original Linear Men Matt Ryder and Liri Lee, and tricks them into helping him steal the corpse of Armageddon 2001's Waverider.

Again, as a fan of Jurgens's Armageddon, Zero Hour, and Superman, seeing Jurgens draw Ryder and Lee again is pure delight. They too, however, leave just before the book's conclusion, and neither seem to bear on the Bruce Wayne aspect of the book nor the Flashpoint. I don't get the sense looking at what DC's producing going forward that these characters will be popping up anywhere else soon, either, so I have to qualify these appearances as for fans of the characters only, and not for anyone hoping for anything substantial.

The disconnect between this book and the events it's supposed to connect is clearest in the "blink and you'll miss it" appearance by Professor Zoom, who proceeds to soundly beat up our heroes, notes that they "aren't what [he] was looking for anyway," and then leaves. Zoom is on only about four or five pages (two of them splash pages); yet the cover of the fifth issue announces Zoom's presence when he doesn't show up until the last page. I can't fault Jurgens directly for this, though; obviously DC wanted a miniseries to spin off from Return of Bruce Wayne and to tease Flashpoint. This book misses no opportunity touting those connections, at least superficially, but there's nothing here to concretely tie to any of the other events -- as we also saw, frankly, in some of the lead up to Final Crisis and in some of the Blackest Night tie-in books.

Jurgens portrays Rip and Booster's loneliness as time travelers well. Throughout the book, Superman and Green Lantern ask all the difficult questions -- Superman wonders at Rip's origins, how he came to be a time traveler and where he got his equipment, while Green Lantern insults Booster relentlessly over Booster's apparent fame-seeking. I felt the characters came off a little stiff here; Superman and Green Lantern argue with Rip about saving a disease-stricken man in the past (not even someone being specifically attacked) in a way that seemed naive for two experienced heroes. Often the characters act as sounding boards to narrate what's going on in the scene, and Superman and Green Lantern serve mainly to ask Rip questions so he can explain the time travel pseudo-science. I haven't felt that Jurgens's recent Booster Gold stories suffered from the same problems, so my hope is that this is isolated to this series and not something we'll also see in Jurgens's DC Relaunch Justice League International.

[Contains original and variant covers]

If you like time travel in the DC Universe, and you like Dan Jurgens, Time Masters: Vanishing Point is an enjoyable, attractive book. Certainly fans of the current iteration of Rip Hunter will recognize the main character here far more readily than in his original post-Crisis on Infinite Earths portrayal. But Vanishing Point is also an example of the kind of thing I wish DC just wouldn't do any more -- a miniseries without any real purpose or point to make, published mainly for the purpose of capitalizing on better books and adding some money to the coffers. This kind of thing, I continue to believe, only serves to foster mis-trust between DC and fans, and makes fans less likely to take a chance on new series, and that's not good for anyone. I'd like to believe that with the DC Relaunch, editorial's attitude toward this kind of thing will change, though I admit I'm not greatly optimistic.

... But hey, dig Jurgens drawing the Linear Men again!

Review: Time Masters (1990) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 04, 2011

We know from the current Booster Gold series that Rip Hunter is kind of a jerk. Ordinarily the chip on Rip's shoulder, however, has to do with Booster's hijinks, and the weight of keeping all of the timestream safe. In future-DC Comics Senior VP Bob Wayne and Lewis Shiner's Time Masters miniseries, however, Rip is more than preoccupied -- he's downright obsessive, singularly focused on his nascent time travel research and a history-spanning villain built from the best of conspiracy theories.

Wayne and Shiner's miniseries is a dark re-creation of the Rip Hunter and Time Masters characters just after DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, far removed from the colorful "Booster meets the Teen Titans" adventures we've seen the Rip Hunter character involved in of late. Moreover Time Masters is a send-up of some previously established superhero tropes, in a way that must have seemed vitally important in that early post-Crisis era.

[Contains spoilers]

With the upcoming DC post-Flashpoint relaunch, I find myself looking a little more closely at how DC and their creators handled the landscape just after their last big reboot. As Geoff Johns points out in his introduction to Time Masters, the larger Superman (Man of Steel) and Wonder Woman relaunches post-Crisis were followed by a number of smaller and sometimes subversive relaunches, including Grant Morrison's Animal Man and Time Masters. The writers can't help but nod to times past, as when former "Forgotten Heroes" Rip and Animal Man encounter one another in this book and Rip is sure they must have met before. At the same time, Rip meets here for the first time former Time Masters Bonnie and Corky Baxter, teaming with fourth Time Master Jeff Smith.

As Wayne and Shiner re-introduce the four established characters, they inject some unexpected reality too the mix. Shiner notes in his afterword how the makeup of the original Time Masters followed the pattern set by the Fantastic Four and others -- a team made up of two men, a woman, and a child. In the new Time Masters, however, there's no platonic friendship between the adults; Rip and Jeff both vie for Bonnie's affections -- ardently and incongruously, since both only met her days previous. Bonnie herself spends much of the book flitting from man to man -- kissing Rip but sleeping with Jeff, and before them having a scandalous relationship with her professor, Cave Carson. Young Corky is hardly the group's mascot; he can't time travel at all due to an early accident, so he mainly makes bitter comments in the background up to the point where, in the end, he hangs himself.

To be clear, picture this in Fantastic Four terms -- Time Masters is essentially a story where Mr. Fantastic and the Thing fight for eight issues over the love of Sue Storm, and then Sue picks the Thing; meanwhile, the Human Torch bides his time awhile before committing suicide.

Even the threat that the Time Masters face, in its own way, deconstructs the Time Masters concept. When a rogue employee blows up Rip Hunter's lab, Rip follows incidental clues to reveal the presence of the Illuminati, a secret organization lead by Vandal Savage that Rip believes, among other things, murdered George Washington and replaced him with their own double. Rip's clues are so vague, however, and the Illuminati's supposed crimes so conspiratorial, that a number of characters suggest over the course of the series that Rip might just be making the whole thing up.

This is the edge of time travel, something that might have been interesting to see explored in the Booster Gold series, where the fact that secret events took place in the past or the future make it hard to prove that they ever happened at all. Further, at the end of Time Masters, Bonnie finds the Illuminati working for good in the future, such that she convinces Rip to cease trying to stop them in the past. Rip's efforts against the Illuminati come to naught, with the strong suggestion that the past can't be changed anyway; as a "first look" at time travel in the post-Crisis DC Universe, the book makes time travel seem near impossible, if not useless, a wonderfully challenging idea at the time even if nowadays DC characters travel through time like walking to the restroom.

Considered in this way, Time Masters is a dark book; fighting for a cause is a thankless prospect, and time travel seems an overly desperate prospect. Rip appears to understand in the end that people can't change time, just themselves -- illustrated in the two bachelors Cave Carson and Jeff Smith adjusting to life alone, Bonnie finally defining herself in the future away from the men, the character Tony giving up her life on the street, and Rip letting go of his obsession with the Illuminati when he's stranded in the past. None of the characters achieve what they tried to through time travel; instead, they all learn to accept what they have. Shiner suggests in his afterword that an intended sequel never manifested, which might, I'm guessing, have at least resurrected Corky, if not shed a more positive light on time travel in the DC Universe.

Fans of the current incarnation of Rip Hunter won't find Time Masters essential reading. At the same time, I found fascinating how this book attempts to put to lie any of a number of comic book conceits, not in the least how blithely characters like Booster Gold travel between eras (and that these Time Masters barely get along with one another, if at all). Time Masters is a decidedly different take on time travel in the DC Universe -- probably best that it wasn't a lasting take -- and an interesting slice of post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Comics history, if not a terribly flattering one.

[Contains original covers with logos, introduction by Geoff Johns, afterword by Lewis Shiner]

More time travel action coming up, when Flashpoint and The Return of Bruce Wayne collide in our review of Time Masters: Vanishing Point, coming up next.

Collected Linkblogging for 7-2-11

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Rich Johnston had yesterday's big scoop on Bleeding Cool, that rumor has it due to retailer pressure DC Comics will release the Flashpoint hardcover in October.

The release time is actually not all that monumental in comparison to Blackest Night. That series ended in May 2010, and the collections came out in July; Flashpoint will end in August, and the collection may be out in October. With Blackest Night, however, we knew about DC's collection plans the previous November, while here we are staring down the end of Flashpoint with no official word, and speculation has been that it could be into next year before the Flashpoint collections emerge. Seeing this in October -- with, hopefully, the other miniseries collections alongside -- would be a fantastic development.

Flashpoint's main lead-in trade Flash: The Road to Flashpoint is scheduled for the end of October. DC has been generally good about releasing these books in order, so potentially that last week in October might be where we should look for the main Flashpoint collection to emerge.

At random, I also thought it was interesting that Rich had some scheduled DC Relaunch writers who didn't quite make it, including one "C. O. Austen" on Blackhawks. Is it ... ? Could it have been ... ? I remember well the Chuck Austen flap from a few years ago, and I'd have been very curious to see DC give the writer a second chance (albeit under a paper-thin new moniker) and the fan reaction thereof, but unfortunately it seems not to be.

That's what I've got for today. Visit Bleeding Cool for lots more great insights into the DC Relaunch, and be back here Monday for our review of the classic Time Masters miniseries, before we cover the Flashpoint-connected Time Masters: Vanishing Point trade later in the week. See you then!