Review: Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 31, 2012

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

After Superman got his sequel, Batman's back with Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, Volume 2. You'll recall the first volume was something of a success for me, with a strong Bruce-or-Batman theme holding the book together, and in some ways a second Batman book is more unsurprising than the second Superman volume.

Unfortunately, Volume 2 doesn't have a strong unifying hook like the question of his identity in Volume 1. What the book does have, however, are a few odd editorial choices (a recurring problem with this series) but many very good stories that, while not first choices for "greatest," still prove entertaining reads for the discerning Bat-fan.

The sum of the parts being more than the whole in this series, let's take a look at what's inside this volume.

Review: Tales of the Batman: Don Newton Vol. 1 hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

[Guest reviewer Greg Elias writes for Speed Force]

DC Comic’s focus on notable Batman artists continues with Tales of the Batman: Don Newton, Vol. 1. Featuring the first reprints of the late Newton’s run from the 1970s and early 1980s, this volume collects a stretch of Bronze Age gems heavy on action in a high-quality format.

As with the first edition in the series, which spotlighted Gene Colan, stories are presented here in the original order of publication. This method recreates the experience of pulling original issues to read only the Newton tales. In the Colan volume, some plot elements were resolved outside of issues he penciled. Here, Newton’s prodigious production is recalled with, for instance, a Brave and the Bold story splitting chapters from his run with O’Neil on Detective Comics. This provides more of an “off the rack” reading experience than the necessary story holes in the Colan volume.

Review: Wolverine and the X-Men Vol.1 hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

[The fianal review in Doug Glassman's month-long spotlight of Kitty Pryde stories.]

After the “Schism” event in the X-Men titles, Cyclops took over the mutant micro-nation of Utopia while Wolverine founded a school for mutants in honor of Jean Grey.

If this sounds backwards to you, then you’re not alone. Wolverine himself questions this turn of events in the first few pages of Wolverine and the X-Men Vol. 1, as do numerous X-Men and the inspectors sent by the New York school board to investigate the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. In fact, writer Jason Aaron seems to be on the defensive throughout the first issue, outlining many of the inherent problems of the school, such as a lack of teachers with certification and bathrooms that turn into Danger Rooms. Is this Aaron having fun with the reader, or is he airing his grievances with the plot he was given by the editors?

Tuesday Talkback for 12-25-12

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

If you're hanging around the blogoverse today, Collected Editions has an open thread today for your chatting enjoyment.

Stop by, pour yourself a cup of cheer, and tell us all about what you've unwrapped today, or earlier this month, or the latest comics and trades you bought yourself -- or anything at all!  Tuesday Talkback -- talk it up, if you like.

Review: Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 24, 2012

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

The "Greatest Stories" series doubles down (or maybe goes double or nothing) with a return to Metropolis for Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, Volume 2. While the first volume contained good Superman stories, you'll recall that not all were great in my estimation; none, however, were so atrocious as to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

But while a second Superman "Greatest Stories" volume is in some ways inevitable, is it any good? As before, none of the stories are flops; the editors have done a good job assembling nine entertaining reads without padding this trade with unnecessary fluff. This collection, however, contains several very puzzling editorial choices, made no clearer by Robert Greenberger's rapid-fire introduction which attempts to sum up 60 years of publication history in two pages.

The sum of the parts being more than the whole in this series, let's take a look at what's inside this volume.

Review: Nightwing Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows's Nightwing: Traps and Trapezes is a good book. The DC Universe has lacked a Nightwing series for a few years and it's been the lesser for it, and it's nice to have one back and one that competently presents Nightwing Dick Grayson, too.

Nightwing is the book that offers the everyperson perspective on the DC Universe, the closest thing to a Batman book that doesn't star Batman and can equally tell stories about small Gotham crime or cosmic Justice League-level events. Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder told great Dick Grayson-as-Batman stories, but Higgins reminds the reader it's not the same thing as a Nightwing story.

Higgins and Barrows's New 52 Nightwing must inevitably be compared, however, to Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel's over a decade ago. Then, a Nightwing-out-on-his-own title was revolutionary, and Dixon's blend of action and humor and McDaniel's Nightwing flipping from panel to panel defined what a Nightwing series should be. Higgins and Barrows do not redefine Nightwing, despite some origin secrets that Higgins reveals here -- theirs is perfectly in line with what Nightwing has been before, no worse but not necessarily any fresher. Nothing wrong with that, though the reader might hope Higgins dares more as the series continues.

Review: Astonishing X-Men Ultimate Collection Book 2 trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

[Continuing Doug Glassman's month-long spotlight on Kitty Pryde stories.]

Joss Whedon started out on Astonishing X-Men with Gifted, a book I enjoyed. Gifted kept up the momentum generated by Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, while also inspiring a new creative drive in the X-Men titles. The Dangerous arc that followed Gifted, however, was not quite up to par; even Joss Whedon admits that the story isn’t his best. But for Torn and Unstoppable -- collected here in the Astonishing X-Men Ultimate Collection Vol. 2 -- you don’t need to know much from Dangerous apart from the existence of Danger, the sentient—and angry—Danger Room brought to life, and about the Sentinel she created to attack the school.

However, you do need to know some of the New X-Men backstory to really get into the comics. The first arc centers on Cassandra Nova, the “evil twin” of Professor Xavier who was a major foe in Morrison’s books. Another villain, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, appeared in New X-Men’s first issue, and there’s a reappearance of the “Black Bug Room,” a terrifying place in Cyclops’ subconscious. On the other hand, Whedon brings back Sebastian Shaw from the Dark Phoenix Saga, along with an amazing visual homage to Wolverine’s “Now it’s my turn” panel from that story. They were included because Whedon was a fan during that era, but they also allow readers who left the franchise in the 1990s to ease into the new stories.

Review: Savage Hawkman Vol. 1: Darkness Rising trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Few characters could have potentially benefited from the DC Comics New 52 relaunch more than Hawkman. After DC's last major reboot, 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths, Hawkman's continuity became horribly muddled, a morass of false starts and retroactive changes that series by Tim Truman, John Ostrander, and Geoff Johns, among others, couldn't fix. For Hawkman to receive a fresh start, finally well and clear of his own continuity and anyone else's, would be a godsend.

Fortunately for the reader but unfortunately for the character, Savage Hawkman gets a new creative team after its first collection, suggesting an initial stumble already for the character (Fury of Firestorm, Grifter, and Voodoo have the same situation). And writer Tony Daniel (with James Bonny) and artist Philip Tan's Savage Hawkman: Darkness Rising is also unfortunately bland, a Hawkman who's neither savage nor well-presented. All of this leads to a disappointment for Hawkman fans and signs that even in a new universe, the Hawkman character's troubles aren't quite over.

Review: I, Vampire Vol. 1: Tainted Love trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

There are undoubtedly some standout gems in DC Comics's inaugural New 52 titles -- Animal Man, Batwoman, and Flash, to name a few. Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino's I, Vampire is another one of these.

I, Vampire: Tainted Love utilizes deft storytelling and thoughtful art to transcends what one might consider the "average comic book." Fialkov's demonstrates masterful control of the story; his chapters are mostly self-contained, at times forwarding the action and at times languidly doubling-back or showing the same events from another perspective, offering the reader the experience of a slowly unfolding novel. Sorrentino's art, which succeeds in moments of both horror and humor, ought be a model for other artists of the New 52.

[Review contains spoilers]

I, Vampire's first two issues give the audience a good sense of what they're in for, narratively speaking. In the first, Fialkov parallels the wistful parting of vampires Andrew Bennett and Mary, the self-proclaimed Queen of Blood, with Bennett fighting through an abattoir of the rampaging undead; the end of the first thread, the reader finds, is the beginning of the second, as Mary pits her vampire horde against her former lover to try to kill him. The first issue is told mainly from Bennett's point of view, but the second issue is told entirely from Mary's, as Fialkov goes back to show Mary gathering her horde.

Review: X-Men: Kitty Pryde and Wolverine hardcover (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

[Continuing Doug Glassman's month-long spotlight on Kitty Pryde stories.]

Marvel’s first big crossover, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, shook up the status quo in a number of titles. One of these was Uncanny X-Men. The budding romance between Colossus and Kitty Pryde was broken up due to editorial interference, with Colossus falling in love with an alien woman. This allowed Chris Claremont to move Kitty forward along a path of maturity. Since she was aging in relative real-time compared to the other X-Men, she had to grow up, and Claremont chose an unusual way to do so.

In the 1980s, Japan was the fascination of many Westerners, and Claremont was one of the biggest Japanophiles in comics. He and Frank Miller had revamped Wolverine with his own mini-series shortly before, adding a new roster of Japanese supporting characters. At the same time, Claremont felt the need to define “Yakuza” in each issue, so Japanese culture had not yet reached saturation in the United States. He occasionally resorts to stereotypes, including giving the main villain a sumo wrestler bodyguard, but it never comes off as offensive or ignorant. For instance, said wrestler is taken down through proper judo techniques.

DC Trade Solicitations for March 2013 - Legion Worlds, Batman: Archie Goodwin, Superman: Secret Identity and Batman: Year 100

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Not to overwhelm you with solicitations, but yesterday in addition to the first of their mid-2013 collections, DC Comics also released their March 2013 trade listings.

Some of this overlaps those summer 2013 releases, but there's a couple items here I wanted to make note of.

* Legion Worlds TP

How do you spot a true Legion of Super-Heroes fan? When you see this Legion Worlds collection on their shelf. There's just no reason for DC to release this highly specialized series of Legion one-shots that followed Legion Lost and lead into a new Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning Legion series, some two continuities ago -- and yet, I missed these books after Legion Lost and I've been hoping DC would collect them. If you like it when DC releases esoteric stuff like this, consider supporting this book with a pre-order.

* Batman: Year One Hundred
* Superman: Secret Identity

Though these are very different book, I've considered some connection between Paul Pope's Batman: Year One Hundred and Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen's Superman: Secret Identity -- both self-contained "Elseworld" stories, if you will, by big-name creators, and both well-received though copies have sometimes been hard to come by. Neither of these new printings are hardcover, unfortunately, but it's nice that they're back out and about.

* Tales of Batman: Archie Goodwin HC

I'm personally more interested in what seems to be a line of writer-focused collections, possibly with a better narrative focus than the artist editions, though guest writer Greg Elias gave us a good look at the Batman: Gene Colan book the other day. Either way, this books gives us Goodwin's Manhunter saga from Detective #437-443 (and presumably the Batman stories, too); Legends of the Dark Knight #132-136, Goodwin's last story, co-written by James Robinson, and featuring Steve Englehart's Silver St. Cloud; and an Arkham Asylum story from Showcase '95 -- always fun to see that title pop up.

* Superman Beyond: Man of Tomorrow TP

I didn't mention it before and here seems as good a place as any -- I love the idea of Superman becoming a firefighter in Superman Beyond (it's not this trade, maybe the next). It entirely make sense that after however many years, Superman would take a new secret identity he wouldn't necessarily still be a reporter. Reading how excited writer J. T. Krul was about this, it even made me re-think the whole "Clark Kent quitting the Daily Planet" thing in Scott Lobdell's Superman. It's a whole new universe -- why constrict ourselves to stories where Clark Kent's occupation is exactly the same as it was before?

* Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others HC
* Batman, Incorporated Vol. 1: Demon Star HC

Again, DC and other sites differ as to whether this volume will contain issues #0-6 of Batman, Inc. or issues #0-12. Many readers are disappointed this isn't deluxe size so as to match the other Grant Morrison Batman trades; for what it's worth, it ought match your other New 52 books at least.

* Birds of Prey Vol. 2: Your Kiss Might Kill TP

Terribly sorry to hear Duane Swierczynski is leaving this title; I really liked the first volume.

* Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Blue Diamond TP

Final collection of this series; includes the Zero Month issue.

* Dial H Vol. 1: into You TP
* Frankenstein, Agent of S.h.a.d.e. Vol. 2: Secrets of The Dead TP

Ditto the final collection of this series, and includes not only the Zero Month issue, but also Men of War #8, leading me to wonder why I bought Men of War in the first place.

* Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2 — Bulletproof HC
* Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Family Tree TP
* Worlds’ Finest Vol. 1: Lost Daughters of Earth 2 TP

Big DC week ... Swierczynski leaving, Gail Simone off Batgirl, Scott Snyder off Swamp Thing ... Don't miss our larger run down of DC collections for the summer, including Before Watchmen, Absolute Superman/Batman, Absolute Blackest Night changes and more.

Tomorrow, Doug Glassman's got a new Marvel review, and Thursday, I, Vampire. See you!

Before Watchmen, Absolute Blackest Night changes, classic Catwoman and Nightwing, more in DC Spring 2013 trade solicitations

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's a tough few days to be a DC Comics fan. We all come, I believe, because we like the characters, but we stay because there's creators we get behind and enjoy.

Gail Simone is a creator whose work I've liked, especially on Secret Six; I can't judge necessarily why DC would choose to hire or fire someone, but firing someone by email -- especially Simone who has been a dedicated ambassador for comics and one of DC's more popular creators -- seems unjust and unwise. And moreover, let's be clear -- Simone is a popular creator, and when DC treats a popular creator this way, what they're doing is treating their fans this way. We all got fired by email yesterday.

I can't write DC off entirely for this behavior. Scott Snyder, among many others, is still producing great work, and Snyder was a big supporter of Simone's -- it doesn't make sense to walk away when there's still some good to be found. And it is not as though DC isn't listening to the fans -- see the Absolute Blackest Night collection below. But hopefully someone at DC will offer an explanation about the Simone situation, because it seems to me a much larger slight than against just one person.

That said, I've got a whole bunch of collections news and there's a whole bunch of interesting books on the horizon -- let's try to have some fun, eh?

Absolute Changes

* Absolute Blackest Night

Vying for the biggest headlines here are the Before Watchmen collections and this -- a resolicited Absolute Blackest Night that now includes Green Lantern #43-48 and #50-52.

Now that's an Absolute edition.

To recap, DC originally solicited Absolute Blackest Night back in October, collecting just the Blackest Night miniseries and a couple of extras, leading us to ask whether DC's Absolute program was dead. After all, had fans really been waiting for an Absolute Blackest Night that only collected as much as the Blackest Night hardcover, and wasn't even really a complete story?

Well, DC heard us, or you, or someone, because Absolute Blackest Night will now be more complete than any other Blackest Night collection, and really provide a complete reading experience. Today's a hard day to tell DC "good job," but this is good news.

* Absolute Superman/Batman Vol. 1

This is an OK Absolute, too. Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness's Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and Loeb and the late Michael Turner's Superman/Batman: Supergirl are both completely out of continuity, but they did have movies made out of them, and they were major stories in their time and I have a soft spot for Loeb and McGuiness's Superman work. If you don't have the books and you're interested in them -- those two categories, I imagine, have a very small intersection -- I guess this is a nice way to read them.

Before Watchmen is Collected

* Before Watchmen Vol. 1
* Before Watchmen Vol. 2
* Before Watchmen Vol. 3
* Before Watchmen Vol. 4

* Watchmen: The Deluxe Edition

As has been reported on numerous sites, DC will be releasing four Before Watchmen hardcovers, one a week, next July. I'm still holding out for the Absolute edition(s).

Volume 1 is Minutemen and Silk Spectre; volume 2 is Comedian and Rorschach; volume 3 is Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan; and volume 4 is Ozymandias, "Curse of the Crimson Corsair," and presumably the extra one-shots. DC is also releasing a deluxe-size Watchmen the month before the Before Watchmen collections come out -- I guess if you're new to comics and have never even read Watchmen, you might could have yourself an interesting summer.

Hardcovers and Their Paperbacks

One very positive trend in the DC New 52 collections is to release the paperback of a book originally released in hardcover at the same time as the hardcover of the second volume comes out. We are about to see this with Justice League and Green Lantern, among others, and here's some more hardcover/paperback combinations.

* Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others HC
* Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench TPB

* Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2: Cycle of Violence HC
* Batman - The Dark Knight Vol. 1: Knight Terrors TPB

* Batman and Robin Vol. 2: Pearl HC
* Batman and Robin Vol. 1: Born to Kill TPB

* Flash Vol. 2: Rogues Revolution HC
* Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward TPB

* Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2: Alpha War HC
* Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1: Fearsome TPB

* Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope HC
* Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 1: The Ring Bearer TPB

* Superman - Action Comics Vol. 2: Bulletproof HC
* Superman - Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel TPB

* Superman Vol. 2: Secrets and Lies HC
* Superman Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow? TPB

More from the DC New 52

The new round of solicitations brings with it, of course, a new round of DC New 52 collections. Many of these will include the Zero Month issues from this past summer.

* Batman Incorporated Vol. 1: Demon Star

Solitications on the DC site say this includes #0-6 of Batman, Inc. Vol. 2, but other sources have it at #0-12, finishing out Grant Morrison's run on this title.

* Teen Titans Vol. 2: The Culling
* Legion Lost Vol. 2: The Culling
* Superboy Vol. 2: Extraction

That DC names collections that tie into collections with the same name as the crossover itself isn't unusual -- see Superman: Infinite Crisis and this month's Nightwing Vol. 2: Night of the Owls, for instance.

The solicitation for Legion Lost, however, says "this crossover tale includes appearances by Superboy and the Teen Titans." Hopefully there's not too much overlap between these volumes and the Culling collection itself. The Batman: Night of the Owls collection included all the tie-in issues, which then appeared in their own collections, but that was more than half-a-dozen books -- the collections should not repeat as much for the three-series Culling crossover.

* DC Universe Presents Vol. 2: Vandal Savage

In addition to James Robinson's Vandal Savage/serial killer story, this volume also collects the one-shot Kid Flash story by Fabian Nicieza, and the zero issue with Hawk and Dove, Resurrection Man, OMAC, Mr. Terrific and others.

* Captain Atom Vol. 2: Genesis
* Deathstroke Vol. 2: Lobo Hunt
* Demon Knights Vol. 2: The Avalon Trap
* Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men Vol. 2: The Firestorm Protocols
* Grifter Vol. 2: New Found Power
* Justice League Dark Vol. 2: The Books of Magic
* Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: The Dominators
* Nightwing Vol. 2: Night of the Owls
* Phantom Stranger Vol. 1: A Stranger Among Us
* Ravagers Vol. 1: The Kids From N.O.W.H.E.R.E.
* Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 2: The Starfire
* Resurrection Man Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life
* Savage Hawkman Vol. 2: Wanted
* Supergirl Vol. 2: Girl in the World
* Sword and Sorcery Vol. 1: Amethyst
* Talon Vol. 1: Scourge of the Owls
* Team 7 Vol. 1: Fight Fire With Fire

New Reprint Collections

* New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3

This is resolicited, though the erroneous contents don't seem different than when we picked them over earlier.

* Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies

The title says "Nightwing," but the solicitation is all about Roy Harper -- Speedy, Arsenal, and Red Arrow. Marv Wolfman is listed as the writer, but the first story in this collection -- "[Roy] needs Dick's help to track down Cheshire... the mother of Roy's child" -- sounds a lot like Devin Grayson's Batman Plus story (which, while it does include Nightwing, is largely a Batman story, and has a fantastic moment in it that I won't spoil here). I'm having more trouble placing the second story -- "Nightwing and Speedy get caught up in a war between two rival gangs" -- anyone?

A strange collection, though anything with Nightwing's name on it is a plus. Meant to appeal to Arrow fans, maybe?

* Catwoman Vol. 2: No Easy Way Down

The comments section was just buzzing about whether DC would continue these collections of Ed Brubaker's Catwoman. The first of these new collections, Trail of the Catwoman, included most of the Dark End of the Street and Crooked Little Town collections; based on solicitations, this one definitely has Relentless and probably Wild Ride. Wild Ride was the last Brubaker/Catwoman collection published though Brubaker wrote more issues, so the real question is whether a Catwoman Vol. 3 is coming. Pre-order this one, folks!

* Batgirl/Robin Year One

Also in the Bat-realm, and maybe reflecting a certain thaw in the DC Comics/Chuck Dixon relationship, here's a collection that brings together Dixon's Robin and Batgirl Year One stories. These are good, the Robin book especially, though I don't completely follow the logic of reprinting these now-completely-out-of-continuity stories.

* Animal Man Omnibus

DC collected Grant Morrison's Animal Man in three volumes a while ago, and when they just announced a fourth collection of the Peter Milligan stories that followed Morrison, I mentioned I thought it was time for an omnibus. This is worthwhile, collecting all of Morrison's Animal Man in one volume, but I wish Milligan's work was in there too, instead of this hybrid hardcover/paperback collecting scheme we have now.

* Stormwatch Vol. 2
* Stormwatch Vol. 1
* Authority Vol. 1

A week or two ago the second classic Stormwatch collection disappeared from the solicitations lists, and I was worried that those who bought the first volume would never see the conclusion. But apparently this did well enough that DC's bringing the first Warren Ellis hardcover Stormwatch collection out in paperback, and the second collection is back on the list. They're following that with hardcover Authority collections (shades of what's to come for the DCU), all of which will make a nice set.

* Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 2

Glad to see volume one of this series did well enough to warrant another. These Green Lantern stories by Len Wein and Dave Gibbons come from a largely-uncollected period about a year before Crisis on Infinite Earths, and mostly star Green Lantern John Stewart.

* Superman: Phantom Zone

When DC the Man of Steel movie-connected collection Superman vs. Zod, a lot of readers mentioned they'd like to have seen Steve Gerber (Howard the Duck)'s Phantom Zone miniseries included. Well, seems it's getting its own book -- collects the 1986 four-issue mini.

* Harley Quinn: Night and Day

The first collection of Karl Kesel's old Harley Quinn series, Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes, has been out there for a while; now it seems with Harley's perennial popularity (and maybe for the fans craving the "old" Harley), here's a second, Night and Day. Art by the Dodsons and Pete Woods, and also includes a Our Worlds at War tie-in, for gosh-sakes.

* Smallville Season 11 Vol. 2: Detective

The infamous Smallville/Batman crossover with Nightwing Barbara Gordon, not Stephanie Brown ...

* Solo: The Deluxe Edition
* Batman Noir: Eduardo Risso: The Deluxe Edition

Two art books here that'll make some readers happy. Solo was a well-received if short-lived artist spotlight series that included Tim Sale, Paul Pope, Howard Chaykin, and Darwyn Cooke, among others. The Eduardo Risso collection brings together Batman: Broken City and Flashpoint: Batman: Knight of Vengeance among others, both great stories. This could have easily have been dubbed a Brian Azzarello/Risso book than Risso's alone, really.

* Superman: Earth One

Now in paperback; I'm surprised DC didn't release this a little closer to the Volume 2 hardcover release, but maybe it's timed for the movie instead.

What are you most excited to see released? Or after a number of creator blow-ups, do you have DC exhaustion?

Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 1: In the Dark trade paperback (DC Comics)

In DC Comics's announcement of the New 52 initiative, Justice League Dark emerged as one of the most compelling reasons for the reboot -- a title that would spearhead the reintegration of many of DC's classic supernatural characters from the Vertigo imprint into the DC Universe proper. No less, the book would be written by Peter Milligan, a long-time Vertigo writer with celebrated runs on Shade, the Changing Man and John Constantine's Hellblazer, both characters Milligan would write again in Dark.

The joy of a comic that includes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and then also Constantine, Shade, Zatanna, and Deadman, among others, remains. And Justice League Dark: In the Dark's final cliffhanger and the fact that DC superstar writer Jeff Lemire comes on as writer in the next volume both warrant checking out this series' second collection. But Milligan's first arc on Dark is overlong and fails to effectively use the Dark characters, ending up more like "just another" team book than the site of Vertigo horror in the DC Universe.

Review: Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 1: The Ring Bearer hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Green Lantern: New Guardians: The Ring Bearer, though flawed in its presentation, may be the best of DC Comics's New 52 Green Lantern titles.

There's nothing wrong necessarily with Tony Bedard's characterization of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner here, though in dialogue Bedard's Rayner still has inexplicable tics that grate through the whole book. Artist Tyler Kirkham's more animated style begins to gell here, even better suited to the wilder aliens of Guardians than it was to Green Lantern Corps previously, but the art has a tendency toward sexual gratuity that's just embarrassing.

Despite this, The Ring Bearer triumphs over Green Lantern and Corps's repetitive storylines and Red Lanterns's stilted introspection because here, something actually happens. The most interesting part of Geoff Johns's revitalized Green Lantern franchise has been the multi-hued Corps, and Bedard brings representatives from each together and plays them off one another in engaging ways. The identity of the person who brought together the "New Guardians" is amusing, full of story potential, and Ring Bearer deals with some of the better plot threads left hanging from War of the Green Lanterns.

Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

[Doug Glassman's got a month's worth of Kitty Pryde spotlight reviews for you, starting now!]

Chris Claremont wrote Uncanny X-Men for seventeen years straight. In retrospect, it’s surprising that the two most important stories from that run are only separated by four issues. With the death of Jean Grey at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga, the X-Men: Days of Future Past trade opens rather appropriately with her funeral. This is actually a framing device for an intense retrospective of the X-Men’s history up to that point.

Claremont and Byrne pack a lot of details into such a small space, from Magneto turning into a baby to the “All-New, All-Different” X-Men attacking Krakoa. It also inadvertently serves as a checklist of Professor Xavier’s questionable decisions. At points, Byrne imitates Jack Kirby and Dave Cockrum to enforce the sense of the series’ artistic changes. The original Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe wouldn’t come out for another two years, so this was a brilliant way to bring new readers up to speed after the Dark Phoenix Saga.

Reading the DC New 52: Month Five

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The fifth month turns out to be a rather good one for the DC Comics New 52 trade releases. The best of the lot is clearly Duane Swierczynski’s relaunched Birds of Prey, followed in distant second by Geoff Johns’s Aquaman: The Trench, which is more notable for how it revitalizes the Aquaman character than for the “Trench” story itself.

I’d definitely read a second volume of Scott Lobdell’s Teen Titans, if not for the relatively likable characters then for the Superboy/Legion Lost crossover. Voodoo had a good ending cliffhanger and I’m interested enough in the Daemonite story to get the second volume, letting alone that the book’s cancellation makes this an easy, no-commitments buy. I’ll stick with Legion Lost because I’m a Legion fan and it, too, is cancelled after its next volume. Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men might be the easiest for me to drop because I’ve never felt a real connection with the title character, but given that a new creative team is about to come on, that’s almost like another volume one for me.

After Firestorm, Peter Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps might be this month’s title that I’m mostly likely to drop, as I didn’t much enjoy it nor the latest volumes of the related series that preceded it, War of the Green Lanterns and Emerald Warriors. But to some extent I’m not sure one can be a “DC Comics reader” and not read Green Lantern and its associated titles simply as a cultural phenomenon, given how the Green Lantern franchise essentially brought DC back to life in the last ten years. I’m dismayed it seems like there’s two back-to-back Green Lantern crossovers on the horizon — they might as well give up the illusion that there’s four Green Lantern titles and just make Green Lantern weekly — but given that Geoff Johns has been writing Lantern for so long, I just bring myself to look away from any part of it until he finishes.

Review: Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men Vol. 1: God Particle trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 03, 2012

The DC Comics New 52 Firestorm has already proven as volatile in the real world as it is on the comics page. Writer Gail Simone and co-plotter Ethan Van Sciver team with artist Yildiray Cinar for The Fury of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man: God Particle, though Simone leaves after this volume to be replaced by Joe Harris, and then the whole team leaves after the second volume to be replaced by Dan Jurgens.

In this way, it's hard to get too attached to what Simone and Van Sciver present here, though it's certainly an ambitious relaunch of the Firestorm mythos. At its best, Firestorm offers some interesting political intrigue and two affecting, realistic protagonists; the plot, unfortunately, stalls at times, and Cinar's good art is not always well-served here.