Review: Teen Titans: Prime of Life trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Teen Titans: Prime of Life, J. T. Krul's second and final Teen Titans collection, is well-written, readable, and respectable take on the Titans. I won't prejudge the DC New 52 Teen Titans such to say I wish Krul would have stayed on the title, but no question I wish he'd joined some years earlier. Prime of Life is not as good as Krul's first book in the series, Team Building, possibly due to the swift advent of the New 52, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

[Review contains spoilers]

Prime of Life collects eight issues, Teen Titans #93-100, of which five are dedicated to the Titans fighting Hindu gods with new teammate Solstice, and three toward a concluding battle with Superboy-Prime and his "Legion of Doom." Krul has said himself that with the coming of the DC New 52, the "Prime" story had to be truncated; it is this that edges Team Building in front of Prime, but Krul can hardly be blamed for that. Prime lacks Team Building's sharp humor (generated mainly by Robin Damian Wayne's presence in that volume) and simply feels unbalanced; there's one too many issues focused on the Titans, Solstice, and the demon Rankor -- an enemy incidental to the Titans -- and not enough on Superboy-Prime, who targets the Titans directly.

Review: Avengers Academy: Permanent Record hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

[Guest review by Doug Glassman]

After the Siege event, two books in the Avengers line ended: Mighty Avengers, following a quirky team led by Hank Pym to oppose the Dark Avengers, and Avengers: The Initiative, chronicling a group of heroes-in-training. When the new title designed to replace them was announced, one question emerged: “Why do we need another book about teenage Avengers?” It’s an understandable concern, as Young Avengers has recently completed its epic “Children’s Crusade” story.

However, Avengers Academy owes less to Young Avengers than to the original X-Men and the New Mutants. They’re not even officially a team until the end of this first collection, Avengers Academy: Permanent Record. Instead, the six students of the Academy are being trained by Hank Pym to be the next generation of superheroes. You can see how this book replaced its predecessors, and it takes the initial concept to new dimensions. It helps that Christos Gage was also the writer for Avengers: The Initiative, and some plotlines from that book continue through here.

Review: Superboy: Smallville Attacks trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Look, I'm still riding high on writer Jeff Lemire for his stellar debut volume of the DC New 52 Animal Man: The Hunt. And certainly it's a joy and a wonder to be holding Superboy: Smallville Attacks, a collection of eleven issues of a standalone Conner Kent series, twenty years after the character debuted and ten years since his last series ended. Certainly, if this were an ongoing series with another volume on the way, I would buy it.

I just can't quite come around to agreeing that this title deserved its "Best New Series" Eisner nomination.

Superboy: Smallville Attacks is an excellent showing for the Conner Kent character, and exactly what the character needed. It is a pitch-perfect story of supernatural weirdness in a small town -- but unfortunately, it is so on-level as to fail to really hold any surprises other than being a good platform for the title character.

How would you like Batman: Night of the Owls collected?

Friday, May 25, 2012

The tie-in portion of "Night of the Owls," the first Batman-family crossover of the new DC 52, has just about wrapped up. Even despite that DC Comics hasn't released the first collections of many of the titles involved, it's not too early to start thinking about how DC might collect this one.

Batman is the title most involved, along with Nightwing. Batwing, Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Batman: The Dark Knight, and All-Star Western all offered loosely-related tie-ins.

I see three ways DC could go about this:

1) Collect all of the above titles in one book, and call it Batman Vol. 2. Maybe books like Birds of Prey would include the same issue and maybe not, but the second Batman volume, as it were, would contain a couple issues of Batman and then these other titles (we recently reviewed the first DC New 52 Batman collection, The Court of Owls).

2) Collect just Batman (and maybe Nightwing) issues in a Batman Vol. 2: Night of the Owls collection, and collect the tie-in issues in a Night of the Owls Companion book. That way interested readers could read the main "Night of the Owls" story and the tie-ins all in one place; the tie-in issues could be additionally collected in their own second volumes or not.

3) Collect Batman and maybe Nightwing in a Night of the Owls collection, and simply collect the tie-in titles in their own individual second volume collections. The main "Night of the Owls" story would get its own collection, and you could pick up Red Hood and the Outlaws or All-Star Western if you wanted more of the story, or not if you didn't.

I'm guessing this won't be popular, but I hope DC goes the third route.  I see no need for the tie-in issues to be collected twice (I think DC should be doing less of that).  If the tie-in issues really aren't mandatory reading for "Night of the Owls," then let's have the second DC New 52 collections be as solid as the first -- the next Batman collection contains the next seven issues, the next Batwing collection contains its next few issues, and let text pages fill in any gaps.

I entirely prefer this to a Batman: Murderer/Fugitive-type collection approach, in which the tie-ins are chopped up to excise any bits not relevant to the crossover and then mushed together in a collection, making for what's ultimately a more awkward reading experience.

But that's just my take -- how would like to see DC collect the first major crossover of the DC New 52? How would you like Batman: Night of the Owls collected?

Review: Red Robin: Seven Days of Death trade paperback (DC Comics)

8 comments | Tags:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

There's an argument to be made that the adventures of Robin Tim Drake, later Red Robin, define the just-completed Bronze Age of DC Comics that stretched from Crisis on Infinite Earths through to Flashpoint and the DC New 52.* Over nearly twenty-five years and almost 200 consecutive issues of his own series, Tim Drake has effectively been the Robin for this era, and with Red Robin: Seven Days of Death, writer Fabian Nicieza brings this iteration of Tim Drake's adventures to a close.

Seven Days of Death suffers similar problems to Nicieza's previous Red Robin volume, The Hit List: Red Robin doesn't have much point or reason for being aside from continuing to tell stories with Tim Drake. Additionally, the plot of Seven Days is terribly confusing, and the end rushes to a close in leaps and bounds probably because of the advent of the DC New 52. All of that said, however, this book succeeds largely because Nicieza presents Tim's voice so, so well, and offers a convincing portrait of what Robin Tim Drake, grown up to Red Robin, would be like.

Review: Secret Avengers: Run the Mission, Don't Get Seen, Save the World hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

[Guest review by Doug Glassman]

There are a ridiculous amount of Avengers books on the shelves right now. There are the "Adjectiveless," New, Mighty, and Secret teams, along with the movie-themed Avengers Assemble. There are also related mini-series and related ongoings like Avenging Spider-Man and Avengers Academy. It’s difficult to figure out who’s on which team at once, similar to the dread one feels when discussing late-1990s X-Men.

However, Secret Avengers justifies its existence by having a very different purpose. Similar to the current incarnation of X-Force or what Justice League Elite was supposed to be [gosh, I liked Justice League Elite -- ed.], the Secret Avengers are the covert team, taking on operations they don’t want the world to know about. Ed Brubaker kicked off the series, followed by Nick Spencer during Fear Itself. During a gap between the Spencer run and Rick Remender coming on to the book, Marvel decided to have a little fun and, on Brubaker’s advice, bring in a very unlikely Avengers writer: Warren Ellis.

For me, Ellis is at his best when writing team books, whether it’s Nextwave, Stormwatch, The Authority, Planetary, Black Summer or the late, lamented Global Frequency. Ellis decides to take the latter route, and Secret Avengers: Run The Mission, Don’t Get Seen, Save The World feels like volume 2 of that title. In every issue of Global Frequency (which I’ll be reviewing next month), Miranda Zero hand-picked a team of specialists to solve a world-threatening issue. They were aided by tech guru Aleph, and the situations ranged from kinetic missiles pointed at the Earth to biological engineering to Zero being kidnapped.

Review: Teen Titans: Team Building trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's a joy and a shame that writer J. T. Krul came along to Teen Titans when he did. A joy, because Teen Titans: Team Building is a triumphant return to form for this title, a readable and respectable team the audience can root for. A shame, because Krul begins his run on the title just twelve issues before the book's relaunch with the DC New 52; I haven't yet read nor is this a commentary on the DC New 52 Teen Titans, but certainly the old DC Universe could have stood for Krul on Teen Titans a lot longer.

[Contains spoilers]

Krul starts off Team Building with a radically pared-down team, which helps immensely. Since Infinite Crisis, Teen Titans has continually added members, from Geoff Johns's Red Devil, Ravager, Bombshell, and Wendy and Marvin Harris after the "One Year Later" jump, to Supergirl, Blue Beetle, Kid Eternity, Aquagirl, and so on. Of these, I'd venture the only one who really took hold was Ravager (maybe also Miss Martian), and Krul's roster is back almost to the earliest make-up of this team in this title, plus Ravager.

Review: Green Lantern Vol. 1: Sinestro hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

With Green Lantern: Sinestro, Geoff Johns brings Green Lantern into the DC New 52 with a story that doesn't rely too heavily on previous continuity and serves as a good introduction to the Green Lantern universe. Dedicated readers, however, will find themselves in almost inexplicably familiar territory, with a status quo that's been stretched well beyond believability.

Now that the twin hurdles of the Blackest Night crossover and the DC New 52 relaunch have passed, I'd like to see Johns do something new with Green Lantern instead of variations on the same old thing.

[Review contains spoilers]

The best thing about Green Lantern: Sinestro is, of course, Sinestro. Geoff Johns has, especially since Green Lantern: Secret Origin and Rage of the Red Lanterns, written a fantastic "buddy comedy" in his scenes with Sinestro and Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Sinestro is the stubborn, by-the-book straight man while Hal is the laid-back upstart that always grabs the glory in the end. It's the formula of Men in Black's Agents K and J, or Psych's Detective Lassiter and Shawn Spencer, except more like the Smallville portrayal of Lex Luthor and Clark Kent -- Hal and Sinestro are mortal enemies, but the reader senses their ire comes strongest from the two former friends' hurt over no longer seeing eye to eye.

Review: Avengers/X-Men: Maximum Security trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

[Guest review by Doug Glassman]

When a comic book company creates a complex outer space portion of their universe, one of the questions that must be answered is: “Why are humans so important?” In the DC Universe, this was answered in Blackest Night by making Earth the home of the life-creating White Lantern Entity. Marvel decided to take a more cynical approach -- it’s not Earth itself that's so important, but that humans keep butting in to the dealings of the rest of the universe. As seen in Avengers Forever and the unfortunately uncollected Avengers Infinity, this eventually leads to humans conquering planet after planet. So what are the other Marvel space species to do?

This is where Kurt Busiek, Chris Claremont, Jerry Ordway and other creators got very inventive when they put together Avengers/X-Men: Maximum Security. Most crossovers tell the main story in one central title, but if you only read the four Maximum Security core issues (the “Dangerous Planet” one-shot and the three central books), the story would feel hollow. Instead, plot threads were spread out among a variety of books, all of which are collected in this paperback.

DC Trade Solicitations for August 2012 - Dark Knight: Alan Davis, Green Arrow, Knightsend and more

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Middle of the month, and another round of DC Comics solicitations -- August 2012 -- weighted heavily toward the DC New 52 books. If I'm calculating it right, it should be this coming August itself when we begin to see trade solicitations for December -- the second round of DC New 52 collections, but also maybe some new collections of older material; that's my wish, at least.

* Superman: Earth One Vol. 2

(UPDATE: Can't believe I forgot this one first time around!) I am quite excited for the second volume of Superman: Earth One. At this point the concept of an accessible, younger Superman has been superseded by the DC New 52; the Earth One volumes are emerging too slowly to be a viable reading alternative for trade-waiters; writer J. Michael Straczynski is even more controversial (if possible) with his statements on Before Watchmen; the "Earth One" concept is even more confusing (if possible) with the advent of James Robinson's Earth 2 series; and remarkably the Earth One Superman costume actually begins to look a little "old" in comparison to the DC New 52 costume -- and still, Superman: Earth One Volume 1 was such a plucky little volume, such a widescreen cinematic Superman story, and such a media sensation that I'm counting the days to the sequel. Bring it on.

* Legends of The Dark Knight: Alan Davis HC

I salute DC for releasing these artist-focused collections -- we can't forget comics are a collaborative process -- but the contents stymie me. The first part of Batman: Year Two and the sequel Full Circle, but not Year Two chapters two, three, and four? Personally, I'd rather read selections from various comics eras, with full stories but emphasis on the artists, or have the collections dedicated to one artist but fill out full stories anyway, than have the reading experience be so incomplete. Does anyone know if these collections include the scripts for comparison purposes, by chance?

* Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 1 -- Knight Terrors HC
* Birds of Prey Vol. 1: Trouble In Mind TP
* Fury Of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men Vol. 1 -- The God Particle TP
* Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 1 -- The Ring Bearer HC
* Legion Lost Vol. 1: Run From Tomorrow TP
* Teen Titans Vol. 1: It's Our Right To Fight TP
* Voodoo Vol. 1: What Lies Beneath TP

This is a month of DC New 52 collections I'm rather not sure of. Can David Finch and company provide readable Batman that stands toe-to-toe with Scott Snyder's? How will Duane Swierczynski's Birds of Prey stand up to the legendary runs of Gail Simone and Chuck Dixon? Will Firestorm be engaging enough to follow when it's just Ethan Van Sciver's on his own? I haven't liked Tony Bedard's Green Lantern Corps and Fabian Nicieza's work is sometimes hit or miss for me -- what does that portend for New Guardians and Legion Lost? Is Voodoo more than just a "bad girl" book? Can Scott Lobdell provide a respectable Teen Titans? These are a bunch of books I'm on the fence about, and that's exciting and intimidating all at the same time.

* Batman: Knightfall Vol. 3 -- Knightsend TP New Edition

No improvement here from the contents as originally solicited by DC, in terms of including aspects of the "Knightfall: The Search" storyline that appears to be omitted from these collections. I guess we'll just see when the books come out -- but again, if they exclude the actual chapters where Bruce Wayne's broken back is healed, that seems a big omission from the "full" Knightfall collections.

* Stormwatch Vol. 2 HC

Also showing no improvement from the original DC solicitations is this second "classic" Stormwatch volume, which still does not include the WildCATS/Aliens special that ended Stormwatch and lead into Authority. I don't know if perhaps Stormwatch #11 ends on a high note and DC wanted this collection to feel "complete" and not beholden on Authority, but I'd still like WildCATS/Aliens in here (and no counting on it appearing in the WildCATS collection now that that's cancelled.

* Showcase Presents: Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld Vol. 1 TP

I won't be picking this up right away, but the fact that Amethyst's ties to the origin of Legion of Super-Heroes villain Mordru are back in continuity (I think) puts this on my list to check out one of these days.

* Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters TP New Edition
* Green Arrow: The Archer's Quest TP New Edition

Not surprised to see these two jump back on to the solicitations list not long after the new CW series Arrow got the green light. Longbow is definitive Green Arrow (read my review) and Archer's Quest is plenty good, too, though neither offers the kind of "young Green Arrow" that CW fans might expect; most likely Andy Diggle's Green Arrow: Year One is still in print.

What's on your buying list for August? Are you buying more trades lately, less, or about the same?

Review: Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Scott Snyder's Batman: The Court of Owls is a different kind of book than his Batman: The Black Mirror, but that's not a bad thing.

Black Mirror was a wonderful horror story, with gore lurking for the reader just beyond the next page. Court of Owls, the first DC New 52 collection of the relaunched Batman title, has a more superheroic aesthetic, built in large part from Batman fighting a new foe over the rooftops of Gotham. This is abetted by Greg Capullo's art, evoking Rick Burchett penciling Greg Rucka's stories during the Batman: Murderer/Fugitive era; it all serves to make Court of Owls feel more naturally in line with the Batman stories that came before.

Court of Owls is no less psychologically complex than Black Mirror, however. Snyder's first crack at Batman Bruce Wayne explores layers of the hero that remarkably may never have been explored before. Snyder proves he's unafraid to show both Bruce's good and bad qualities, something that serves the story well but may be troubling to some fans.

Review: Batman, Incorporated Vol. 1 deluxe hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The first volume of Grant Morrison's Batman, Incorporated demonstrates just how versatile a writer Morrison is. The stories run from entertaining if mundane team-ups between Batman and regular members of his Bat-family, to location pieces profiling individual members of the Batman, Inc. network, to the kind of time-shifting, multi-perspective work Morrison is known (and often praised or cursed) for.

This is ambitious, adventurous work, though the end is just the beginning (a theme of the book itself). This may disappoint some readers hoping for more than just a prologue in Batman, Inc.; there is a second story here just below the surface -- as there often is in Morrison's works -- that I found interesting enough, but ultimately my expectations for this one might just have been too high.

Review: Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Ultimate Collection trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

[Guest post by Doug Glassman]

It might be unfair to call the two Earth’s Mightiest Heroes mini-series, brought together in this Ultimate Collection, an “origin story,” as the team assembles off-panel. In fact, many of the team’s major battles occur away from the main story. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is closer to Kurt Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man in that it takes the original Lee and Kirby stories and weaves around them. We see the behind-the-scenes of the characters reacting to their new world and to their own issues.

Much of the first issue, for instance, deals with the controversy surrounding the Hulk’s membership. Iron Man assures the public that he will keep the giant reined in … and shortly thereafter, the Hulk goes rogue.

Review: Animal Man Vol. 1: The Hunt trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 07, 2012

I admit that even though I enjoyed the DC Comics New 52's first collected offering, Justice League: Origin, it was not the kind of "instant classic" comic I was hoping for to launch the New 52. Animal Man: The Hunt is that comic.

Though The Hunt does not really take its impetus from the reborn DC Universe (aside from foreshadowing a crossover with another "Dark" title), it is nonetheless a fantastic take on the Animal Man character by writer Jeff Lemire with artist Travel Foreman, and a great start to DC's new line. Animal Man is witty and frightening, faithful to Grant Morrison's definitive portrayal but a smidge less meta, a little more pop horror. This is what the Vertigo imprint looks like meshed with the DC Universe, and it's just about perfect.

Avengers (Guest) Month on Collected Editions

Friday, May 04, 2012

[Guest reviewer Doug Glassman has an announcement ...]

In honor of the most anticipated movie of the year, I've decided to look back at the comics that inspired it. It's time for ...

Three Stooges Month!

Wait, don't hit back on your browsers, it's Avengers Month.

Collected Editions Avengers review month

In celebration of the upcoming Avengers movie, I'll be reviewing a wide range of Avengers stories here on Collected Editions this month. Stop back each week for a new Avengers review!

And to kick things off, here's a little trivia contest.

Can you guess which books I'll be reviewing, based on the hints below? The first person to guess them all in the comments can tell me what book to review in June (any non-DC trade under $40 not already reviewed at Collected Editions). Here's the hints:

1) A modern and definitive retelling of the Avengers' origins

2) The sequel to my first Avengers review on Collected Editions

3) An instant classic released mere weeks ago

4) The start of a young team with an uncertain future

5) What may be the worst Avengers trade of all time

Happy guessing!

By the way, here's links to some other Avengers reviews from Collected Editions guest reviewers:

* Review: Dark Avengers Vol. 1: Assemble

* Review: Avengers: Under Siege

Thanks Doug. Excelsior!

Review: Justice League Vol. 1: Origin hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The DC New 52’s Justice League: Origin is a summer blockbuster of a story, one that puts me in mind of the Avengers movie about to arrive in theaters. We’ve rarely if ever had such a widescreen rendition of the first meeting of the Justice League, and as an action flick it's lots of fun. This is a Justice League story you can give to any reader that they can understand without much preface.

At the same time, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League surprisingly seems less of a re-imagining of the team than it is an exercise in shoring up Johns’s own take on these characters. Johns’s characterization of Flash Barry Allen is easily recognizable here, as is his presentation of Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Jordan’s relationship with Batman. Up to now, Johns’s slightly-modified Green Lantern and Flash were variations on early depictions; with Origin, for better or worse, Johns’s depictions become fact.

Review: Hulk Vol. 5: Fall of the Hulks hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

[Guest reviewer Zach King blogs about movies as The Cinema King]

I should begin by saying that there isn't technically anything wrong with Fall of the Hulks, the fifth and penultimate volume of Jeph Loeb's run on Hulk. The action is compelling, the super-villain team-up tantalizing, and the promise of the next volume enticing. Unfortunately this volume feels a bit too much like a prologue -- a brief and slightly repetitive one, at that.

Fall of the Hulks opens with a bang -- Thunderbolt Ross is dead, killed in combat with the Red Hulk and (more surprisingly) at the behest of Bruce Banner. There are more surprises in store for the world of the Hulk: Betty Ross is back from the dead, as is one-time beau Glenn Talbot.