Review: The Invisibles Vol. 7: Invisible Kingdom trade paperback (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

[The seventh 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 final volume The Invisible Kingdom, Grant Morrison's seven-trade opus The Invisibles draws to a close -- only I'm not sure if it's with a whimper or a bang. What's clear is that the story ends, without much ambiguity or hemming and hawing due to editorial control or last-second alterations. What's not clear is whether it all works -- as an ending, the story meanders a bit and loses sight of its larger questions, but the characters are satisfied, and we are satisfied with the characters. But does the ending itself satisfy?

"And so we return and begin again." Rather than rejoin our Invisibles immediately, The Invisible Kingdom begins with a long look at Division X, the mystical street cops who are trying to prevent the devious plan to replace England's monarchy with the monstrous moonchild from behind the mirror. King Mob ends his brief sabbatical to fight Sir Miles Delacourt and the minions of the Outer Church, but not before bidding farewell to the Invisibles' maternal guru Edith Manning in a poignant but slightly overlong narrative thread. And when The Invisibles come face to face with the totality of the Outer Church's dastardly plot, not all of them will be coming home -- and those that do are going to be changed forever. The series concludes with a flash-forward of sorts, in which the survivors regroup in December of 2012 to take on the King-of-All-Tears one last time before budding Buddha Jack Frost ushers in the next stage of human development.

DC Relaunch: You Want Paperback!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In my far-from-comprehensive and unscientific poll that ran here over the past week, half of respondents said they'd like to see DC release collections of the New 52 relaunch books solely in paperback.

Gosh, I think you people are going to be disappointed.

Given that all of DC's major releases prior to the post-Flashpoint relaunch have been hardcover -- Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Justice League, the latest Wonder Woman and Green Arrow books, and so on -- I cannot imagine that DC would release their new big name titles in paperback.

If anything, I wouldn't be surprised if all fifty-two titles emerge first in hardcover -- Action Comics, definitely, but also All-Star Western and Voodoo -- such to show consistency across the whole line and, of course, maximize profits.

Review: Secret Six: Cats in the Cradle trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Secret Six is back to wonderful mayhem with writer Gail Simone's Secret Six: Cats in the Cradle. I continue to believe, unfortunately, that the title is not as strong as at the beginning of the series, but Cats in the Cradle is a marked improvement over the last volume, Danse Macabre. Still, Cats has some moments that are as taut as anything we've seen so far in Secret Six, both shockingly violent and startlingly non-violent, and fans will be riveted nonetheless.

[Contains spoilers]

When the Secret Six is routinely hip-deep in blood, it's hard to keep track of who's killing the most. While it would be hard to characterize Catman Thomas Blake as the team's conscience, however, we can recognize that Blake's misgivings -- if not about killing, than at least about what killing does to him as a person -- have been present from the beginning. In Secret Six: Unhinged, Blake worries to Sixer Deadshot that he's "lost the horizon" -- that Blake no longer knows if the bad things he does are evil, or if his sensibilities have just changed so far that he simply has a different perspective than regular people on his actions that might be perceived as evil.

Part 2: Superman: Grounded Vol. 1 review

Friday, September 23, 2011

[This is part two of the Collected Editions review of Superman: Grounded. Read part one of our Superman: Grounded review at the link.]

For the DC Relaunch, Grant Morrison talks about creating a Bruce Springsteen-type Superman -- jeans, T-shirt, more hardscrabble and earthy than superheroic. J. Michael Stracynzski's Superman isn't wearing denim yet, but he is quoting Thoreau (at least anecdotally) and sticking up for the common man. When one person demands that Superman go be a hero rather than walking around, Superman turns the accusation around and demands the person go be a hero instead. What Stracynzski approaches by the end -- when Superman chides a police officer who believes only Superman could have saved the abused boy, whereas Superman says anyone with "ten cents' worth of compassion" could have done it -- is a kind of Superman grassroots movement, in which everyone acts enough like Superman to perhaps even erase the need for Superman altogether.

I'd like to have seen Stracynzski's original ending for Superman: Grounded and what kind of Superman stories he would have told in a post-Grounded world; and I'm curious to read Chris Roberson's Superman stories in the next volume and see how they coincide, or don't, with what Stracynzski started here.

Review: Superman: Grounded Vol. 1 hardcover/trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I finished reading the first volume of Superman: Grounded with some regret that writer J. Michael Straczynski won't truly be finishing this story in the next volume. The material Stracynzski covers here is not new, necessarily -- Superman saving a beaten child, talking down a suicide, inspiring an old man with his flying -- but that Stracyznski packs it all one right after another on this very "hard traveling heroes"-esque walking tour that Superman's taking, and especially right on the heels of the cosmic "New Krypton" storyline, is largely compelling.

As with Wonder Woman: Odyssey, however, the moment Straczynski hands the reigns to another writer, it shows. I fear what interesting things Straczynski was trying to say with Superman in Grounded could be too easily overshadowed by fill-in stories that really have no place here.

Trade Perspectives: 10 Great Things about Countdown to Final Crisis

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I was re-reading Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter the other day, and it occurred to me that this was a really good era of DC Comics. And then I did a double-take, because in fact, it wasn't a good era of DC Comics by most accounts -- it was smack in the middle of the trainwreck known as Countdown to Final Crisis. Which got me thinking, surely in all that misery there were ten good things about the Countdown to Final Crisis era ...

Review: Secret Six: Danse Macabre trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 19, 2011

I consider the first volume of the ongoing Secret Six series, Unhinged, about as close to perfect as any trade paperback (and well-deserving a hardcover omnibus collection); the follow up, Depths, is nearly as good. As such, this series was bound to take a tumble, and Secret Six: Danse Macbre is that tumble. Blame it on any number of factors -- a Blackest Night crossover that just gets in the way, a new character less interesting than the one she replaces, an art team change that robs the book of some of its dynamism. Either way, Danse Macabre isn't the series's finest volume.

[Contains spoilers]

Danse Macabre pits the Secret Six against the Suicide Squad of the present, and then the two teams against the resurrected Suicide Squad of the past, with beloved Squad writer John Ostrander assisting Six writer Gail Simone. This would seem a recipe not just for a great Six story, but also for some key nostalgic moments among the Squad, especially given that this story crossed over into the Blackest Night "resurrected issue" Suicide Squad #67.

Review: Wonder Woman: Odyssey Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How do we read J. Michael Straczynski's Wonder Woman: Odyssey? If it's meant to be the origin story of a new character, do the story beats on which Odyssey turns remain resonant, like Princess Diana's receipt of a certain golden lasso or her discovering the action figures of a familiar star-spangled heroine? Or if this is "simply" a time-bended tale involving our iconic Wonder Woman ultimately restoring the status quo, what is there for a long-time reader to gain from exploring this alternate Diana and her supporting cast? What, if anything, can we take away from Wonder Woman: Odyssey?

Odyssey, when we separate ourselves from some of the sartorial hysteria with which this story was imbued largely by the non-comics media, is not the train-wreck it's been made out to be. The story and art do not always run on all cylinders and at times each lets the other down, but in the midst of it all is something quite interesting.

If we were going to posit the story of an Amazon princess in man's world, but remove some of the continuity, trappings, and experience that, I do believe, makes the Wonder Woman character somewhat imposing for both writers and new readers, what would it look like? What would a Wonder Woman movie look like, or TV pilot, or if Straczynski tried his hand at Wonder Woman: Earth One? Chances are a little bit like Wonder Woman: Odyssey.

Review: Wonder Woman: Contagion trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 12, 2011

In a run that's seen Princes Diana separated and exiled from her homeland, at the tail end of an incarnation of the series that included Amazons on a rampage through the streets of Washington DC, Gail Simone starts Wonder Woman: Contagion with a Diana conflicted over her warring identities, and ends it with a peace long-time readers thought they might never see. Contagion is a fitting conclusion to Simone's Wonder Woman stint, with a strong and exciting final chapter.

[Contains spoilers]

Gail Simone's Wonder Woman stories have very much been about war and peace. How can Diana be an ambassador of peace and still fight enemies willing to slaughter in their hate for her, Rise of the Olympian asked. What right does a warrior have to friends and loved ones (Olympian again). Can a warrior also be a lover, and have a family (this, from Warkiller)?

Review: Titans: Fractured trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The latest incarnation of the Titans title had a difficult path. At times relatively good and insightful stories (I stand by Lockdown) were overshadowed by gratuitous violence, over-sexualized artwork, and crossovers that upset the book's natural flow. Titans: Fractured marked the end of what we might call "act one" for that title, before the creative team and nearly the book's entire cast changed toward the Villains for Hire era, and ultimately cancellation (if not out-and-out removal from continuity) with the DC Comics relaunch. Overall I liked Fractured better than I expected, but it is itself a mixed bag representative of what this title's troubles were.

[Contains spoilers]

Every couple of years the "writers' room" at DC Comics turns over; it wasn't so long ago that Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka were unknowns at DC, and now Johns is management and Rucka has moved on. Among DC's new writers are Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink's Eric Wallace, who continues as Titans' s regular writer; Chris Yost, late of Red Robin; Bryan Miller, who brought the laughs on Batgirl; and J. T. Krul, the once and future Green Arrow writer. With a few others, each takes a chapter of this book focusing on an individual Titan, and it's an interesting showcase of DC's "new blood" alongside the story itself.

Collected Editions's 1,000th Post

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

This is not actually Collected Editions's 1,000th post.

With the vagaries of permanent pages and drafts, this post is probably a little short of Collected Editions's 1,000th post. Said 1,000th post will probably be a review and will pass unremarked over the next week or so, as perhaps how it should be.

This is a post, however, to mark that Collected Edition's 1,000th post is upon us. In celebration we've given the old homestead a little facelift. Not a whole lot different on the outside, really -- a little brighter, hopefully, and a little easier to read -- but there's a bunch of behind-the-scenes updates specifically designed to position the Collected Editions blog to embrace what comes next.

... What comes next?

Review: Tick: The Naked City trade paperback (New England Comics)

Monday, September 05, 2011

[A new guest review by Doug Glassman, who blogs at Astrakhan Industries.]

In my review of Armor Wars, I mentioned the Iron Man animated series from the early 1990s, and I would like to continue investigating comics relating to that second Golden Age of Animation. My generation was brought into comic books with animated series such as Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men, and of course Batman: The Animated Series. Also running at the same time, but in a very different genre, was The Tick.

As a child, The Tick was barely on my radar, partly because I was completely obsessed with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and partly because the series was really never meant for kids -- not that it was vulgar, but just written for a much older audience, with puns and references which flew over my head. What eight-year-old would get a pun about a furniture-obsessed villainess called the “Ottoman Empress”? (I do remember a particularly brilliant one in which the United States was invaded by the Swiss, who had massive Swiss Army Knife backpacks with helicopter rotors.)

Review: Green Arrow: Into the Woods hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

J. T. Krul's Green Arrow: Into the Woods is akin to J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Grounded and Wonder Woman: Odyssey. That is, though we didn't know it at the time, Krul's Green Arrow is essentially a limited series of about a dozen issues where Krul can recreate Green Arrow Oliver Queen as he sees fit, all to be wiped away after the DC Relaunch. And Krul does take some surprising liberties with Green Arrow's character and origins; I like Krul's take on Green Arrow and enjoyed the tone of this book better than I thought I would, but this is a book geared more toward a new Green Arrow reader than an experienced one.

[Contains spoilers]

Based on cover images and assorted previews alone, I was concerned J. T. Krul would turn Green Arrow into a "swords and sorcery" book, defined as you see fit -- appearances by King Arthur's knights, the Lady of the Lake, and in the next volume, the Demon Etrigan. None of that is the case, however -- Into the Woods is not near so urban as Andrew Kreisberg's recent Green Arrow/Black Canary run (and light years from Mike Grell's) but Ollie fights techno-soldiers and gang members just as much as he does Black Lantern zombies here, so the tone isn't quite so different than in Green Arrow series past.