Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Vol. 1 graphic novel (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This review of volume one of Vertigo's two-volume adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be unlike most others because I have not read any of the books nor seen any of the movies. The most of my experience prior to this graphic novel was a movie trailer and a couple of back-cover summaries. As such, I was able to approach the graphic novel by Denise Mina as if it were the book itself -- to consider how it functions as a story on its own, not how well or poorly it lives up to the original or other adaptations.

The first volume of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo takes a risky tack in that it ends before the two principle characters, journalist Mikael Blomkvist and hacker Lisbeth Salander, ever meet one another. Breaking books into two entities is in fashion these days -- see the final two Harry Potter movies, the final two Twilight movies, or the apparent three upcoming Hobbit movies -- but one is lead to expect a relatively complete experience from each. The first volume of Girl has a full arc, but the book's overarching mystery barely gets under way.

Review: Transformers: Robots in Disguise Volume 1 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

[The second of Doug Glassman's special two-part "Trans-giving" Transformers reviews!]

There’s nothing simple when it comes to Transformers. For example, Robots in Disguise is not only a recent Transformers series from IDW, it's also the name of two different toy lines a decade apart. Like its companion IDW title, More Than Meets The Eye, the book’s name is derived from the franchise’s famous theme song. In the chaos at the end of IDW’s Transformers ongoing series, these two books take on an interesting concept: the war with the Decepticons is over, the Autobots have won in only the loosest sense, and it’s time for the giant robots to move on. What’s really impressive is how different the two titles are. While More Than Meets The Eye is a humor-filled action romp, Robots in Disguise is a political thriller.

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Peter Tomasi's Green Lantern Corps has been a fan-favorite, taking a once-esoteric 1980s series and turning it into a high-octane space cop drama; just before Blackest Night, Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason's Green Lantern Corps: Sins of the Star Sapphire and Emerald Eclipse were even better than Geoff Johns's main Green Lantern series.

Prior to the DC New 52 reboot, however, DC Comics moved Tomasi, with artist Fernando Pasari, to the short-lived spin-off Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors. This book was passable, better than the subsequent Green Lantern Corps stories by Tony Bedard, but despite the emotional drama and stunning space-violence (something Tomasi and Gleason did well), Warriors lacked the verve of the former Tomasi/Gleason team. It didn't help that the truncated storyline was mostly in service to Johns's next line-wide Green Lantern crossover.

Review: Tales of Batman: Gene Colan Vol. 1 hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

[Guest reviewer Greg Elias writes for Speed Force]

Last year, DC Comics kicked off their artist-centric series of Batman hardcover collections with Tales of the Batman: Gene Colan, Vol. 1. Featuring the early portion of his 1980s run on both Batman and Detective Comics, this volume is an extremely enjoyable and fan-friendly opening salvo to a series that caters to comic art lovers first.

The late Colan is best known for his work at Marvel Comics, including legendary runs on Daredevil and Tomb of Dracula. His time at DC in the 1980s produced the amazing Phantom Zone miniseries and a lengthy run on Batman’s twin titles. The majority of the stories in this first Tales of the Batman volume are written by Gerry Conway, with the last two scripted by Doug Moench. Since this book has a Colan-first focus, there are peripheral plot threads that are resolved in issues not collected in this book.

Review: Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Vol. 1 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

[Doug Glassman's special two-part "Trans-giving" Transformers review begins here.]

Though it’s technically a continuation from the main Transformers ongoing series, Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye is essentially the sequel to Last Stand of the Wreckers. They feature the same creative teams, the same approach to continuity, and the same combination of humor and horror. It’s important to note that while both series can be read on their own, More Than Meets The Eye comes before Robots In Disguise. This is made clear by the first story in this volume, “The Death of Optimus Prime.”

Initially published as a one-shot, “Death” summarizes the ending of the previous ongoing and sets up the new status quo. Optimus returns from one of his many temporary deaths to find a Cybertron in chaos. With the Decepticons defeated, the Autobots are facing a crisis over how to proceed. One group, led by Rodimus (formerly Hot Rod), still longs for adventure [from the Transformers movie, right? -- ed.]. They want to go off into space and find an ancient group of Autobots known as the Knights of Cybertron. The other faction, led by Bumblebee, wants to forge a new future on Cybertron’s burnt-out husk. Complicating this are the numerous non-combatant Cybertronians returning from exile.

Review: Voodoo Vol. 1: What Lies Beneath trade paperback (DC Comics)

4 comments | Tags:

Monday, November 19, 2012

The DC Comics New 52 book Voodoo: What Lies Beneath is an interesting read headed by an uncomfortable prologue. Voodoo and Grifter are essentially two sides of the same New 52 storyline, but whereas Grifter Cole Cash is a slick con man, Voodoo Priscilla Kitaen is a stripper. To writer Ron Marz's credit, Voodoo's activities strongly reflect the themes of the book, and Voodoo's stripping was an aspect of the character from her creation ten years ago in WildCATS under the Wildstorm imprint. Like Grifter, Voodoo is a conspiracy-laden action comic, such that the latter issues are fairly enjoyable, but the first issue makes it hard to embrace the series entirely.

[Review contains spoilers]

One could (and many have) write a detailed review solely on the first chapter of Voodoo: What Lies Beneath. Voodoo, a covert human/alien hybrid spy for the alien Daemonites, reads minds through close contact; she performs two stripping routines for a male FBI agent who's been following her, and then kills him when she sees images of alien autopsies in his mind. Meanwhile, the agent's female partner beats up a gang of men who try to assault her.

DC Trade Solicitations for February 2013 - New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3, Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6, and more

Friday, November 16, 2012

Time again to look at DC Comics's monthly solicitations -- this time, February 2013. A slim month, at least for me -- just a couple things that caught my eye, though I always want to hear what appealed to you that I skipped, too.

Let's get right to it.

* The New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3 HC

Couple corrections to this solicitation.

Supposedly this third New Teen Titans Omnibus collects Tales of the Teen Titans #45-61 and 66-67, New Teen Titans #38, New Teen Titans #1-6, and Secret Origins Annual #3.

The thing about Tales is that it was New Teen Titans Series 1 through issue until it became Tales with issue #41, and around issue #45 DC launched New Teen Titans Series 2. These series ran simultaneously through Tales #58. Tales #59 reprinted the DC Comics Presents Titans origin, and #60 began reprinting issues of New Teen Titans Series 2; thus New Teen Titans and Tales became the same series, just about fifteen issues behind one another.

Therefore, the New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3 can't actually contain the full seventeen issues listed above, since Tales #60-65 are actually New Teen Titans #1-6.

Plus, New Teen Titans #6/Tales #65 is part one of a four-part story; even with Tales #66-67 (Titans #7-8), there's still one part of that story missing.

Not to mention that the Vol. 2 Omnibus contained over twenty-five issues, and with the listing above, we're looking at seventeen or less, which is a considerably smaller Titans Omnibus than what DC has offered so far, and for the same price as the others.

Hopefully this turns out to be an incomplete issue list and there's more issues coming. A thinner omnibus would be a shame, and an omnibus that cuts off in the middle of a story (possibly because this is around when George Perez leaves Titans), without another omnibus to follow, would also be a disappointment.

* Crisis On Multiple Earths Vol. 6 TP

Readers are already lighting up Dan DiDio's Facebook page about this one.

Solicitations say Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6 (first announced to you by Collected Editions) collects Justice League of America #195-197, 207-209, and 219-220. The first is the JLA and JSA versus the Ultra-Humanite and the Secret Society of Super-Villans; the last fixes some (pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths) continuity regarding the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Black Canaries.

Issues #207-209, however, are parts one, three, and five of a team-up with the JSA and the All-Star Squadron; the other parts are found in All-Star Squadron #14 and 15.

Surely, surely this one is a misprint too; I can't believe DC would release a Crisis volume with two parts of a five-part story excluded.  At the same time, all the fans have to go on at pre-order time is the solicits; for a book like Crisis on Multiple Earths that's already had a tough publication history, I wish the details would be right the first time so they don't lose potential customers.

* Day of Judgment TP

It's been a while since I've read Day of Judgment, but I'm left with the impression that it was not very good: art that didn't thrill, a story that didn't pop, and a whole lot of silly-sounding magic stuff (DC's magic titles have improved a lot since then, including Bill Willingham's Shadowpact). But it remains that this is 1) a DC Comics crossover, 2) one of the first things Geoff Johns wrote for DC, and 3) the first time Geoff Johns wrote Hal Jordan, setting the stage, eventually, for Green Lantern: Rebirth (plus 3A) there's a cool moment when the newly re-banded JSA re-introduces itself to the DC Universe).

For all of these things, I wholly applaud DC collecting this; I might be less sanguine about a Genesis collection, which lacks the same historical relevance. Me, I'm one of six people out there who'd still like to see a War of the Gods collection ...

* Superman Vs. Zod TP

Issues collected here (or so they say) are Adventure Comics #283, the first appearance of the Phantom Zone and General Zod, in a Superboy story; Action Comics #473, 549-549, various stories of Superman versus Zod; DC Comics Presents #97, a Phantom Zone story, the last issue of that series, and a rare pre-Crisis story told after Crisis on Infinite Earths had already finished; and Action Comics #10, a new Zod origin by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner.

Am I the only one who wished DC would have reprinted the "Supergirl Saga" from Superman #21-22 and Adventures of Superman #444? Within, the Phantom Zone criminals kill everyone on a parallel Earth, and Superman is forced to execute them -- now that's Superman versus Zod!

* All-Star Western Vol. 2: The War of Lords and Owls TP
* Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2 — Scare Tactics HC
* Batwing Vol. 2: in The Shadows of The Ancients TP
* G.i. Combat Vol. 1: The War That Time Forgot TP
* I, Vampire Vol. 2: Rise of The Vampires TP
* Red Lanterns Vol. 2: The Death of The Red Lanterns TP

* Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls TP

Your DC New 52 releases for this month. Detective, Batwing, and GI Combat all include their Zero Month issues.

Those are my picks for this month -- what are you getting? And a bonus question, how have your comics buying habits changed over 2012?

Review: Birds of Prey Vol. 1: Trouble in Mind trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Toward the end of the "old" DC Universe, the Birds of Prey title had become somewhat dour and directionless, despite the return of long-time Birds scribe Gail Simone. Still, when DC Comics announced their New 52 initiative, it was alarming that someone other than Simone would be writing the book -- crime writer Duane Swierczynski. Simone was only one of two writers, with Chuck Dixon, that had successfully written the title in its over fifteen-year history, so fans met a new writer with some apprehension.

Fortunately, Swierczynski's Birds of Prey: Trouble in Mind is near flawless. Swierczynski proves right away he understands the Birds concept and what makes it work. Not only does Swierczynski write a great Black Canary, he also makes new character Starling a favorite in seconds, and the book barely falters from there. Like Teen Titans, Birds of Prey was a book that needed a kick in the seat, and Swierczynski delivers with perhaps one of the most enjoyable relaunches of the DC New 52 so far.

Comic Book Gift Guide 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Collected Editions blog is back with our list of the top trade paperbacks and graphic novel gifts that'll make great presents this holiday season. If you've got a comics fan in your life and you don't know what to get them (or you're looking for a little something extra for yourself), here's my picks and some suggested by our Collected Editions readers.

And as always, I've got tips how you can get two or even three books for under $25 and $30 with free shipping, so you can get the most collected comics bang for your buck.

(Check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 for more great ideas, too!)

* Saga Vol. 1

The first issue of Saga is free on the digital Comixology app, and I recommend anyone who’s on the fence about this book to read it. Brian K. Vaughan brought us Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina (and also some episodes of Lost), and Saga is the place to go when you’re done with those. Saga is part Star Wars-type alien sci-fi battles, part magic fantasy tale — definitely for mature audiences. Saga combines Vaughan’s trademark subversiveness with a surprising amount of heart; this one has my highest recommendation for the season. The first Saga collection is only ten bucks, and with Manhattan Projects and the first volume of Unwritten (both below), you can gift three collections for under $30 with free shipping.

* Building Stories

Just about every gift list you read is going to include Chris Ware’s Building Stories. More performance-art-in-the-privacy-of-your-own-home than “book,” the fourteen items within (book, pamphlet, magazine, comic strip, board game, etc.) tell the story of various residents of a Chicago apartment building. Read the pieces in any order, or find numerous discussions of the book online. For the comics fan who has everything, here’s one thing they’ll never have seen before. Building Stories is just under $30 with free shipping, so anything else on your list would ship free with it.

* A Tale of Sand

Archaia Entertainment publishes a number of Jim Henson books -- Muppets, Fraggle Rock, and such -- but this for-grownups graphic novel is based on one of Henson’s lost, unproduced screenplays, written before his Sesame Street work. As such, Tale of Sand gives great insight into Henson’s creative process and, as it’s mostly wordless, is also a surreal, interpretive visual feast. Archaia is known for their high-quality graphic novel printings. Add this to Unwritten and get two fantastical books for just over $25 with free shipping.

* Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

In my review, I called Sean Howe’s book a good but uncomfortable read. This will teach any fan -- whether of Marvel, DC, or other -- a lot about the comics industry, but the book is also filled with a lot of in-fighting, and a lot of bickering between some of the biggest names in comics. Everyone should read this (and then Howe should turn to DC Comics next), but prepare to be disillusioned. Pair with Saga and get two books and free shipping for just over $25, or with a book like Judas Coin for two books just under $30.

* The Judas Coin

This graphic novel emerged from DC Comics a little under the radar, maybe because no one was quite sure what to make of it. Walt Simonson’s Judas Coin is about a whole lot of things, from Batman to a future incarnation of Manhunter (with whom Simonson is often associated) to esoteric DC characters like Bat Lash and the Viking Prince. This is, essentially, a Walt Simonson vanity project, but Simonson is such a legendary talent that the fact might very well sell the book itself. For the fan who has everything but might’ve missed this, here’s a chance to spend some time with a comics master. Judas Coin plus Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (in which Simonson appears) will get you free shipping for under $30, or pair with Saga and one of the kids' books (see bottom) for free shipping at just over $25.

* Manhattan Projects Vol. 1: Science Bad

Jonathan Hickman has been Marvel’s popular “science guy” for a while now on Fantastic Four and other titles. His creator-owned work from Image emerged to mixed reviews; if you like wacky science like X-Files and Fringe, this might be the book for you, but if Grant Morrison’s strange, self-referential stories turn you off, then maybe not. Hickman reimagines the Manhattan Project as a front for other science experiments, and takes the scientists like Einstein and Oppenheimer and gives them weird super-traits. A book for some, if not for all. Consider Manhattan Projects, Unwritten, and Saga for three “new classics,” under $30 together with free shipping.

* Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

For fans of Fables, Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s Vertigo series The Unwritten might be of interest. Protagonist Tommy Taylor’s father wrote a series of Harry Potter-type books, and fans for years have confused Tommy with his father’s hero -- except Tommy is learning he may actually be the boy wizard. Unwritten quickly becomes a Fables-type story in which Tommy encounters numerous literary figures, including the Golden Age of superheroes and, soon, the Fables characters themselves. Some wonder about Vertigo’s future, but here’s a place where Vertigo is still alive and strong. Get the first volume of Unwritten plus Manhattan Projects and Saga, three books for under $30 with free shipping.

* Avengers vs. X-Men

No 2012 gift list would be complete without including the Avengers vs. X-Men hardcover, a massive almost-600-page book featuring the whole blockbuster series plus some of Marvel’s Infinite digital comics now in print. Though the story has been controversial, Marvel certainly lead into their Marvel NOW! initiative in much better style than DC’s lackluster Flashpoint before the New 52. I can’t imagine any Marvel fan’s shelf would be complete without this one. Avengers vs. X-Men clocks in at almost $50, the most expensive book on the list, but everything else here would get free shipping right along with it.

* Battlepug

One of my recent obsessions is webcomics (I read the whole of Cameron Stewart’s Sin Titulo in almost one sitting, but we’ll have to wait for next year’s gift guide to get to that), so I’m happy to pass on a reader recommendation for Mike Norton’s webcomic Battlepug, collected in print form by Dark Horse. This absurdist tale about a Conan-like warrior that rides a giant pug into battle will be something silly and different for fantasy fans, plus the book continues in the ongoing webcomic. Pair Battlepug with any two of Saga, Manhattan Projects, or Unwritten, and you can come in with three graphic novels at just about $30 with free shipping.

* Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 2

Back in 2010 we recommended the Walking Dead Compendium, a 1,000-plus-page book collecting eight Walking Dead trades in one volume. Well, two years and three television seasons later, Image has published a second Walking Dead Compendium, with another 1,000 pages, collecting volumes nine through sixteen. You want to gift zombie horror for a reasonable price, here’s an impressive present to leave under the tree. The Walking Dead Compendium comes in around $35; it’s a little pricey, but it qualifies for free shipping and so will anything else you include with it.

* Stumptown Vol. 1

Most of what’s suggested on this list are new 2012 releases, but another reader recommended Greg Rucka’s Stumptown, and I’m such a Rucka fan and so miss his work at DC that I had to include it. Rucka writes great mysteries and strong women, and Stumptown has both — Rucka’s detective Dex, good at her job but a compulsive gambler, tries to find a missing girl to clear her debts. From Oni Press, this is an oversized hardcover, sure to look good under your tree. Stumptown qualifies for free shipping all by itself, so anything else on this list can hitch a ride with it!

* Underwater Welder

If Scott Snyder’s was DC Comics’s breakout star at the end of last year with Batman: The Black Mirror, his collaborator Jeff Lemire is right on his coattails this year with Animal Man, Justice League Dark, and now Green Arrow. Lemire’s graphic novel from Top Shelf, Underwater Welder, has been described like a Twilight Zone episode, as a man who welds for oil rigs begins to time travel around events in his own life. Lemire has said that themes of fathers and sons in Underwater Welder may be reflected in his Green Arrow work, so fans of Lemire’s DC work may want to check this out. With Infinite Horizon or Battlepug, you’re almost right at $25 and free shipping if you add one of the super-hero kids' books, or choose Saga, Manhattan Projects, or Unwritten to get a three-book package at about $30 with free shipping.

* Infinite Horizon

Image won an Eisner for this re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey. Far from mythic fantasy, however, the book is set in post-apocalyptic America, and features a soldier trying to get back to New York after fighting in Syria. Art is by Phil Noto, which speaks well for the book in and of itself. Writer Gerry Duggan is less well-known, but he’s written for Attack of the Show for a while, and he’s writing Marvel NOW!’s Deadpool with his long-time collaborator, comedian Brian Posehn. Pair with Battlepug and a DC Super Friends or Marvel Super Hero Squad book for just over $25 and free shipping (if you can’t use the kid’s book, you can always donate it to Goodwill), or get Infinite Horizon plus any two of Saga, Manhattan Projects, or Unwritten, for three graphic novels with free shipping for just over $30.

* Superman: Earth One Vol. 2
* Batman: Earth One Vol. 1

The first Superman: Earth One graphic novel was the smash hit of 2010; the second one has received a slightly cooler reception, but fans of this more realistic back-to-basics approach to Clark Kent will surely want to check out the sequel (the Earth One books remain fairly accessible for new comics readers, too). Even better was Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One Vol. 1, released earlier this year, which has a stronger story and might appeal to fans of the Dark Knight Returns movie. Together, these books come in at just over $25 and qualify for free shipping, the perfect package for a new comics fan in your life.

* DC Super Friends
* Marvel Super Hero Squad

I like these DC and Marvel kids' books both because they’re a lot of fun, but also because they tend to be pretty cheap when I’m looking to round out my shopping cart. If you’re right about at $25 and need something to push you over, consider one of these books for your favorite young comics fan -- or, buy one and donate it to Goodwill and get yourself one more check on the “nice” list.

Your turn! What did I miss? What else should be on this list?

Collected Editions turned seven years old this year -- how the time has flown by! Thanks to everyone who visits and supports this site -- happy holidays and happy New year!

(Lots of bloggers have affiliate links like the ones above, and when you do your holiday shopping after clicking these links, the blogger gets a few cents. This year, if you're buying gifts online, consider clicking on someone's link before you buy -- when I buy online, I always try to click through a blog before I do. There are lots of hard-working bloggers out there [see blogroll], and this is a great, easy way to support them. Thanks!)

Review: Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson Vol. 1 trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

[Review by Doug Glassman]

"Far beyond the fields we know, the core of an ancient galaxy ... explodes!"

So begins Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson Vol. 1, chronicling the start what many consider to be the best Mighty Thor run in comic book history; it began twenty-nine years ago this month.

I didn’t properly explain this in my “Marvel Epic Theory” post, but part of what cements a work in my Epic Canon is how it fit into the Marvel Comics narrative “spine,” which was cemented between 1979 and 1993. Simonson’s Thor is a key link between the cosmic, mystical, Avengers and X-Men sides of the Marvel Universe, which were already drifting apart. Simonson vastly expanded Marvel’s mythology, adding his own characters while adapting existing Norse myths into new tales.

Review: Legion Lost Vol. 1: Run from Tomorrow trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 12, 2012

DC Comics goes three-for-three with their New 52 "Young Justice" line; Scott Lobdell's Superboy and Teen Titans both impressed, and now Fabian Nicieza has delivered with Legion Lost: Run from Tomorrow.

This is most assuredly the Legion of Super-Heroes book for those who don't like the Legion of Super-Heroes, surprisingly light on real Legion fare. It begs the question what readership Legion Lost is for; hardly is there a significant audience out there looking for a small-team Legion book spotlighting Legionnaires Wildfire or Dawnstar or Gates, as evinced by this book's cancellation after its next volume. That said, however, if the reader is a Legion fan and does particularly like Wildfire, Dawnstar, Gates, Tellus, Timber Wolf and the rest, Nicieza does a nice job even if it's hard to tell what audience this book is aiming for.

Review: Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

9 comments | Tags:

Thursday, November 08, 2012

DC Comics's New 52 initiative has been a successful fresh start for the company, but to some extent it's still been "comics as usual" -- crossovers, creative team changes, stories that work and stories that fizzle out.

One title that has seen a real reinvention of comics -- not "comics as usual," but rather something truly different and new that would appeal to non-fans who already think they know what comics are "all about" -- is J. H. Williams and Haden Blackman's Batwoman. The strong plot aside, Williams utilizes not just complex paneling, but also a number of inventive artistic tricks that enhance the story. The art in Batwoman says something on its own; it doesn't just sit on the page in companion to the dialogue.

Another of these impressive titles is Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato's Flash: Move Forward. The creators offer a Flash Barry Allen that is thankfully free of years of excess baggage, including the specter of his own death. In the previous iteration of his title, Barry been routinely anachronistic and also terribly dour; even despite what Flash fans have lost in the transition to the New 52, Manapul and Buccellato's Flash recaptures much of the joy inherent in Barry that makes him a viable character, which creators like Geoff Johns have championed but failed to be able to show. Barry is a little nerdy, a little square, but he also loves his powers and loves learning about them, and the reader gets caught up in Barry's enthusiasm.

Interview: J. Michael Straczynski on Superman: Earth One Vol. 2

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Last week I reviewed J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Earth One Vol. 2; subsequent to my review, I reached out to Mr. Straczynski with a few questions by email, which he was kind enough to answer.  Straczynski also submitted some responses to my review, which I've posted with the review itself. Spoilers for Superman: Earth One follow.

Collected Editions: Superman chooses to arm rebels against a dictator in this book, a choice the United States itself struggles with in Syria and elsewhere. Were the real-world parallels intentional, or what interested you in pitting Superman against more political challenges in Superman: Earth One Vol. 2?

J. Michael Straczynski: My sense is that Clark is feeling his way in terms of using his powers.  He’s just recently announced himself to the world, and now the same questions that we might ask -- why doesn’t Superman solve problems A, B and C -- are running through his head.  What is his responsibilitiy to the rest of the world?  We know the rules of the Superman we know because they’ve been in place for decades.  This Superman, this Clark, still has to figure all that out.  Coming at this from his perspective, knowing he can do just about anything, where is the cut-off line?  How far is too far?  And what can his conscience accept in terms of not doing?

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation-2 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

[A special Tuesday review by Doug Glassman before our interview with J. Michael Straczynski, coming tomorrow.]

I think Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2 could be the nerdiest comic ever written. Don’t get me wrong -- I mean it in a positive way. I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who, and while I was too young to get into TNG during its first run, I enjoy watching the reruns. This kind of crossover has been the subject of decades of fan fiction; I can only imagine the behind-the-scenes maneuvering required by IDW, Paramount and the BBC to pull it off. If you’re unfamiliar with either franchise, I highly recommend checking out SF Debris. His reviews of both series are informative and hilarious.

Sometimes, when doing a crossover, one writer is chosen to represent both franchises, which can negatively affect the characters. IDW decided to bypass this by having Star Trek writers Scott and David Tipton and Doctor Who writer Tony Lee collaborate, which keeps the story evenly split. Though the cover advertises the Eleventh Doctor and the Next Generation cast, they do honor the past incarnations with a meet-up between the Fourth Doctor and Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty. The comic series is still going on as of the writing of this review, so I don’t know if there are any other similar meet-ups, but I’d love to see the Seventh Doctor and Benjamin Sisko appear.

Review: Teen Titans Vol. 1: It's Our Right to Fight trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Though there are no end of corners calling for Scott Lobdell to be burned in effigy, for the second time one wonders what all the fuss is about, based on the work alone. Maybe this will be clearer when Red Hood and the Outlaws comes around. As with Superboy: Incubation, Lobdell offers an exciting and believable new start for DC's young heroes in Teen Titans: It’s Our Right to Fight. Even for fans of the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez team or Geoff Johns's popular reboot, the New 52 Titans benefit immensely not from jettisoning the old continuity so much as jettisoning the tired safety that went with it.

[Review contains spoilers]

Of late Teen Titans has worked best as a teaming of the young derivatives of the Justice League. This was the case when Geoff Johns relaunched Teen Titans from Young Justice, and indeed the title struggled when it deviated from Superboy, Wonder Girl, (Red) Robin, and Kid Flash. It was only at the last title's end that it regained its "core four" and also its momentum.

Reading the DC New 52: Month Four

Friday, November 02, 2012

The newest month of DC Comics New 52 collection releases included two cancelled Wave 1 series, Hawk and Dove and OMAC; one cancelled Wave 2 series (or is it Wave 3, I can't keep up), Resurrection Man; one that will have two or three creative team changes in as many collections, Deathstroke, and then Action Comics, Superboy, and Swamp Thing. I've read all of these except Swamp Thing, which I've set aside for another time. I am quite confident I'll enjoy Swamp Thing, given its rave reviews and the author is current Batman superstar Scott Snyder, but I've some Swamp Thing back-reading I'd like to do in order to really get the gist of Snyder's book, and that's going to have to wait until later.

This is another month of DC's trade releases that feels weak to me. The first Action Comics trade is certainly a big deal and so is Superboy, though with Teen Titans and Legion Lost released next month, Superboy feels more a part of that month than this. Swamp Thing is a big deal but, of course, I skipped it; and then the others aren't necessarily blockbusters.

I begin to think DC maybe structured the year a little too top-heavy (maybe on purpose, to build initial excitement for the New 52 collections); to have Animal Man, Batman, Green Lantern, Justice League, Justice League International, Stormwatch, and Wonder Woman all in the first month doesn't leave much to really crow about toward the end. Yes, Aquaman and Flash and Nightwing and Superman and Supergirl and I, Vampire, but they're none of them released in as close quarters as that first month.

What I'd like to look at this time is the world-building -- in these seven six comics, what does a reader learn about the new DC Comics universe that they would not have known a month before (granting that, given the above, some other month might have yielded more fruitful studying than this one)? If this actually were a totally new universe, and a specifically-planned one (like the Tangent Universe, for instance, or Grant Morrison's interconnected Seven Soldiers stories), each of these volumes would be serving to reveal something about the new DCU; that's not actually the case, but we may find bits and pieces scattered nonetheless.

Review: Superman: Earth One Vol. 2 graphic novel (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Why do we need Superman: Earth One?

With Smallville having told the adventures of the nascent Superman over a period of ten years, and the DC New 52 having recently de-aged the Man of Steel to a less experienced state, why do we need one more book that examines Superman's origins?

Because writer J. Michael Straczynski tackles aspects of the young Clark Kent that no one else can.

The second volume of Superman: Earth One will undoubtedly be controversial because Straczynski addresses the sexual issues a real-life Superman would have to face, punctuated by no less than a shout-out to Larry Niven's classic essay "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex." But Earth One Volume 2 ultimately emerges as an examination of Clark Kent's heart, and his isolation, of which his sexuality is just one part. There are instances of too-swift characterization here in Straczynski's rush to make philosophical points about Superman, but this does not mitigate the weight of the points Straczynski makes, nor the value of this venue for Straczynski to make them.