Review: Green Arrow Vol. 2: Triple Threat trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Green Arrow Vol. 2: Triple ThreatI've been pretty high on Green Arrow these past couple of days, having enjoyed two especially good episodes of the CW's Arrow, "The Odyssey" and "Dodger." (Even if "Dodger" is the worst. supervillain. name. ever.) Ann Nocenti's Green Arrow Vol. 2: Triple Threat does nothing to hurt my enthusiasm for Arrow, but certainly if DC Comics wants to attract Arrow fans, Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's new run can't come soon enough.

Nocenti's stories here are chaotic and confusing, as is Harvey Tolibao's artwork. Moreover, as loosely-defined as Green Arrow Oliver Queen is after just one previous volume (JT Krul, Dan Jurgens, and Keith Giffen's Green Arrow: The Midas Touch), I don't think Nocenti fundamentally understood the new Green Arrow in these pages, or she took him in a different direction than the previous writers intended, which also dampened my enjoyment of this book.

Batman: Death of the Family collections in 2013, DC One Million Omnibus, and more from ComicPro

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Batman #14 - Death of the FamilyAs reported on Newsarama, DC Comics announced at the recent ComicPro meeting two collections of the "Death of the Family" crossover event, to be released later this year.

As with DC's collections for the Batman crossover "Night of the Owls," DC will collect both the main story on its own, and then collect the tie-in issues all together. For "Night of the Owls," the main book is Batman Vol. 2: City of Owls and the tie-in book is Batman: Night of the Owls. For "Death," the two titles will be Batman: Death of the Family (probably Batman Vol. 3) and Joker: Death of the Family Companion.

Calling the tie-in book "companion" is a deviation (though keeping with books like Infinite Crisis Companion and others). That the companion book is labeled "Joker" and not "Batman" is an odd choice -- I can see positives and negatives for this -- and I wonder if DC will end up going the Batman: Alternate Title route before the books come out.

DC has said Batman: Death of the Family will be 176 pages, likely collecting at least Batman #13-17. Joker: Death of the Family Companion is reported at 387 pages; DC has added and subtracted various "Death of the Family" tie ins, but this should contain between two and three issues of titles like Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Suicide Squad, and Teen Titans.

DC also announced a DC One Million Omnibus, expected to collect all thirty-four DC One Million tie-in issues, plus the four issue miniseries by Grant Morrison and maybe the DC One Million 80-Page Giant, too.

After the Infinite Crisis Omnibus and the DC One Million Omnibus, it does lead one to wonder what other DC crossovers could be collected in full in omnibus format. Blackest Night is an obvious choice if it hadn't just received Absolute treatment. I'd love Armageddon 2001, War of the Gods, or Eclipso: The Darkness Within omnibuses, but I'm old-school that way. Fancy a Legends Omnibus anyone? Invasion!?

Still can't say I know much about Planetary, but the other collections news is a Planetary Omnibus, Vertigo Visions: Frank Quitely, and Children's Crusade, the one and only Vertigo crossover event that included the Dead Boy Detectives and characters from Black Orchid, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Doom Patrol (actually, that sounds pretty interesting).

So there you have it -- Death of the Family collected before the end of the year.

Review: Journey into Mystery Vol. 1: Fear Itself hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Journey into Mystery Vol. 1: Fear Itself[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

Even if he hadn’t been the cause of the Avengers’ union in the original comics, Loki would’ve returned as the villain in Joss Whedon’s Avengers film. Tom Hiddleston brought an incredible amount of pathos to one of mythology’s greatest villains in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor film, and Marvel saw the fandom’s reaction to Loki (especially the reactions of the fan-girls) and decided to take a gamble on a Loki-driven series. To make the title character even more irresistible to female fans, they made him a pre-teen boy. Then they tied the entire title into a fair-to-middling crossover, and collected it all in Journey into Mystery Vol. 1: Fear Itself.

This could have gone horribly, horribly wrong. I’m still not entirely sure why it didn’t, but much of the credit has to go to Kieron Gillen for keeping Kid Loki a credible character. Why Loki is a kid is the central mystery of the title, which won’t be resolved until Gillen’s run ends, but after only a few issues, the age of the main character becomes less and less of a sticking point. Loki keeps his arrogance, but he gets put in a rough position in Asgardian society now that he's lost most of his magic. Various characters question why Loki is allowed to walk free in Asgardia (the floating city version of Asgard), and often, he is just barely saved by his guardian, Volstagg.

Review: Superman Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow? hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Superman What Price TomorrowThe titular series starring DC Comics's best-known character (or second-best, depending on your point of view) is one where there's not a lot of room for error, history notwithstanding, and especially not at the very start of DC's New 52 initiative. Writer George Perez succeeds in presenting a contemporary Metropolis in Superman: What Price Tomorrow?, but the plot of the book itself is clunky and ill-conceived. Perez publicly blamed editorial interference for any difficulties his six Superman issues might have had, though the problems don't seem to be caused by any mid-arc shift in storyline; rather it seems What Price Tomorrow? takes too long to reach its conclusion for not enough payoff.

[Review contains spoilers]

What Price Tomorrow? begins with the destruction of the Daily Planet building and globe; the Planet becomes part of Galaxy Communications's Planet Global Network, complete with a shiny new building and globe, with Lois Lane as a television news producer and Perry White and Clark Kent still on the print side. The ongoing depiction of Lois's work to run a multimedia news agency (with allowances for fiction) is one of the strong points of Perez's story, but it's countermanded by Clark's boycotting the change because of his new, supposedly corrupt bosses.

Review: Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 4 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 4 by Alan Moore
I'm more than half-way through my reading of Alan Moore's Saga of the Swamp Thing with my completion of the fourth volume. To an extent, it seems strange that the fourth volume should conclude Moore's "American Gothic" storyline -- given as we are these days to the idea of trilogies, Vol. 4 ought seem to be the set-up for the conclusion of Moore's run (Star Wars to his eventual Return of the Jedi), rather than a clean ending before the two final, seemingly lonely volumes.

[Beware spoilers, ye who enter]

Considering these books in this way, however, is an anachronism first of all because Moore's goal wasn't to write a certain number of Swamp Thing collections (whereas many are writing for the trade today, for better or worse) but rather he was simply writing the Swamp Thing ongoing series. Second, whereas one can't tidily split the Saga of the Swamp Thing collections into the first three and second three volumes, instead perhaps these collections can be seen as two-volume duos -- the first two introductory volumes, through the death of Arcane; the second two volumes, "American Gothic," and then the last two volumes. If one considered buying the Swamp Thing books just a few at a time, then, that might be a way to go about it.

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Guts hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wonder Woman Vol. 2 Guts
I like Batwoman, and I like Flash. But Wonder Woman may be the best book DC Comics is producing right now.

[Review contains spoilers]

A number of reviewers smarter than I am can tell you why the revelation in Wonder Woman: Guts's first chapter (Wonder Woman #7) is wrong in all sorts of ways -- that portraying the Amazons as savages who seduce and kill men three times a century, bear their children, and keep the girls and sell the boys into slavery violates actual legends of the Amazons, established DC Universe Amazon lore, and plain good sense -- and they're probably right. Somewhere, George Perez is weeping over this.

But Brian Azzarello's controlled burning of everything sacred to the Wonder Woman mythos remains a genius endeavor. As in Wonder Woman: Blood, Azzarello continues to strip the majesty from the Wonder Woman story, but far from leaving it lesser, these revisions make Wonder Woman more sensible, and more approachable. In the last volume we learned that Diana is not an immaculate golem, as previously believed, but rather she's born of plain old congress between her mother and the god Zeus. Here, no longer does it seem that the Amazons magically replenish their ranks from battle to battle, but rather they, too, have been doing it the old fashioned way all along.

Review: Daredevil Vol. 2 by Mark Waid hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Daredevil Vol. 2 by Mark Waid[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

There’s a tradition amongst Daredevil creative teams that you keep going until you’ve made a name for yourself. Frank Miller did it twice, followed by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. More recently, first Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev had a lengthy run, and then they were followed by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark. Mark Waid has taken a different approach, relying on multiple, highly-talented artists and shorter stories versus longer and ever-more-depressing arcs. The strategy has been a runaway success: not only did Waid win an Eisner, but his artists led the company into the Marvel NOW! initiative, one of the best company-wide reinventions in years.

Marcos Martin is out of the art rotation for the second volume of Daredevil by Mark Waid, except for the new single-page intro at the start of the book and the cover of issue #10.1 (the second volume collects Daredevil #7-10, 10.1, and Amazing Spider-Man #677). Paolo Rivera is now the main artist for the trade, followed by Emma Rios’s standout work on the crossover with Amazing Spider-Man. Kano and Khoi Pham each drew a single issue as well, and all four are going to be on “Best Artists of 2013” lists. To add even more great art into the mix, there are alternate covers by Alex Maleev for the Eisner-winning issue #7 and Lee Bermejo for issue #8 and Amazing Spider-Man #677.

DC Trade Solicitations for May 2013 - Crisis on Multiple Earths, Brubaker Catwoman, Archie Goodwin, and Before Watchmen

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6 - DC ComicsA little delay on this recap of DC Comics's May 2013 trade paperback and collections solicitations, mainly because for dedicated Collected Editions readers, a lot of these books you already knew about. Couple of headlines to take a look at, however:

* Crisis On Multiple Earths Vol. 6 TP

This was announced, then cancelled with the promise of a resolicitation, but for those who've followed the long saga of the Crisis on Multiple Earths books, I don't blame you for feeling disheartened. Well, the good news is that this is back on DC's schedule, and now All-Star Squadron #14-15, which originally wasn't set to appear in this book, has been added in. So now the contents are Justice League #195-197, #207-209, and the All-Star Squadron issues; common wisdom is that Justice League #219-220 and #231-232 are still left to round out a Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 7, though that's slim for a full trade and given two years since the last Crisis book, who knows when we might see another one.

* Catwoman Vol. 2: No Easy Way Down TP

As I mentioned before, this book collects through the already-collected Catwoman: Wild Ride. I'd mostly be interested in this series if it starts collecting the uncollected issues Ed Brubaker did with Paul Gulacy and Jimmy Palmiotti.

* Batgirl/Robin Year One TP

Collecting the two Chuck Dixon miniseries. I'm a little fuzzy on how well Dixon's Nightwing: Year One story -- within the pages of Nightwing, not standalone -- dovetailed into these, but I kind of wish DC had gone for the trifecta.

* Harley Quinn: Night and Day TP

If you happen to organize a DC Comics Trade Paperback Timeline (newly updated with all the DC New 52 Vol. 1s), you'll be interested in this collection mainly because it includes another "Our Worlds at War" crossover book that you can add to the reading order.

* Tales of Batman: Archie Goodwin HC

This book is worthwhile at least simply to have a hardcover collection of Archie Goodwin's "Manhunter" saga (previously released with what DC used to generously call their "Prestige Format" binding), plus Goodwin's last Batman story co-written with James Robinson.

* Superman Family Adventures Vol. 1 TP

I have loved flipping through Baltazar and Franco's books in my local comics shop; I'm very curious what their "mainstream" Green Team book is going to be like.

* Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach Deluxe Edition HC
* Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre Deluxe Edition HC
* Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan Deluxe Edition HC
* Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair Deluxe Edition HC

I am not, not, not, not, not buying these. There will be bigger omnibus editions, or an Absolute edition, or something. This is entirely the first salvo in the negotiation and I'm not falling for it. (Your results may vary.)

* Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2: Cycle of Violence HC
* Deathstroke Vol. 2: Lobo Hunt TP
* The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men Vol. 2: The Firestorm Protocols TP
* Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2: Alpha War HC
* Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope HC
* Red Hood and The Outlaws Vol. 2: The Starfire TP
* Resurrection Man Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life TP
* Teen Titans Vol. 2: The Culling TP

Various and sundry from the New 52 offerings. I get that the Deathstroke book is written and drawn by Rob Liefeld, I get that the quality is going to be suspect, but there's something about a trade of Deathstroke hunting Lobo that puts a smile on my face. Also I rather can't believe New Guardians might be the Green Lantern book I'm most looking forward to. Also that Resurrection Man cover is just plain creepy.

What's on your to-buy list for the month of May?

Review: DC Universe Presents Vol. 1: Deadman and Challengers of the Unknown trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 18, 2013

DC Universe Presents Volume 1: Deadman and Challengers of the UnknownThe first collection of the DC Universe Presents New 52 anthology series offers a five-part Deadman story by Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang, and a three-part Challengers of the Unknown story by DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio with art by Jerry Ordway. Of these, Jenkins's is stronger than DiDio's (though DiDio's is somewhat improved from hit-or-miss run on Outsiders).

But even though Jenkins's Deadman story is entertaining, neither story is helped by this anthology format -- the Deadman story would seem to make changes to the character, but puts everything back the way it was before the story ends; the Challengers story would seem to relaunch the team, but cuts off just as that team finds purpose. The result is two stories that ultimately don't matter or accomplish anything, and if this demonstrates the tack of the DC Universe Presents series as a whole, it's not hard to see why the title was ultimately cancelled.

Review: Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 3 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Saga of the Swamp Thing Volume 3 by Alan MooreThe third volume of Saga of the Swamp Thing is the volume where I, for one, have begun to feel more comfortable with the Swamp Thing character. The book is to some extent the most traditional of the Swamp Thing volumes so far -- eight chapters encompassing four or five story arcs, each with well-defined "villains" for Swamp Thing to defeat; plus there's a certain "movie monster" commonality among the horrors (vampires, werewolves, zombies) that ties the book together and adds to the familiarity of the volume.

At the same time, each of the stories deal not-so-covertly with political or social issues. As well, there's a running storyline throughout in which Swamp Thing gains and explores some new powers. And Swamp Thing's guide to this enlightenment, introduced in Saga of the Swamp Thing #37 collected here, is none other than John Constantine in his first appearance.

This mix of simple and complicated, classic horror and commentary, and one-off stories and overarching threads makes this my favorite of the three Saga of the Swamp Thing books I've read so far.

Review: Batman: Night of the Owls hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Batman Night of the Owls collectionIt's hard to recommend the Batman: Night of the Owls crossover collection. It is, at least, highly repetitive; a majority of the chapters involve some member of the Batman family meeting, fighting, and defeating one of the villainous Court of Owls's Talon warriors, and not in any way that will enrich your understanding of the characters or the villains. Moreover, in collecting mainly the "Owls" crossover's ancillary tie-ins, the book only scratches at the story's main plot, stops just as the story gets good, and then as a bonus, spoils the crossover's ending.

At the same time, it's equally hard to discount the appeal of a 300-plus page Bat-family collection. Night of the Owls is neither groundbreaking nor earth-shattering, but neither is it, for the most part, poorly written or drawn. If one were about to board a long plane flight, Night of the Owls wouldn't be a bad purchase, but most will want to wait and read these issues with their individual collections.

Review: Captain Marvel Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

When I started reading comics regularly about ten years ago, I was of the opinion that DC had a far and away better cadre of female talent, both in creators and characters. But an influx of female talent joined Marvel around the time Gail Simone left Birds of Prey, shifting the balance between the Big Two. One of the most prominent amongs this new wave of women in comics was Kelly Sue DeConnick, who revitalized the somewhat pointless Avengers Assemble by making it the home of Bendis-style witty banter now that Jonathan Hickman has taken over the two main Avengers books.

Her main project, however, is the promotion of the long-suffering Carol Danvers from Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel, positioning her as one of Marvel’s answers to Wonder Woman. (The other candidate for that role is Sif, who perhaps not coincidentally is also in a book by a female author -- Kathryn Immonen’s Journey Into Mystery.) The first collection of DeConnick's series is Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight.

Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 11, 2013

[Guest reviewer Scott Beattie writes about the Memphis Grizzlies for Straight Outta Vancouver]

At its core, the concept behind Suicide Squad is incredibly brilliant and elegant: a group of villains goes on high-risk black ops missions for the US Government in exchange for time off their prison sentences. In addition to creating an ensemble thriller featuring a cast of anti-heroes, the concept also helps fill in some of the nuts and bolts of the DC Universe as it fleshes out minor villains while also explaining their continual presence in other superhero titles despite the fact that they should be in jail.

Unfortunately, this concept is not well-served in Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth, the squad's first appearance in the rebooted DC Universe. The first seven issues of the series feature poor dialogue, forced humor, and an excessive amount of violence. The concept alone should be intriguing for first-time readers, but long-time fans of either John Ostrander's original Suicide Squad or Gail Simone's Secret Six will probably find this incarnation unappealing.

Review: Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 2 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Friday, February 08, 2013

Continuing my casual journey through DC/Vertigo's collections of Alan Moore's Saga of the Swamp Thing ...

[Spoilers ahoy!]

Saga of the Swamp Thing Volume 2 is a testament to the versatility of the Swamp Thing character (or, at least, the versatility of Alan Moore's imagination as corresponds to Swamp Thing). To say this volume offers humor, horror, and romance side-by-side is to understate it -- the stories stretch from a gruesome trip to hell to presenting Swamp Thing essentially as a cartoon character. Far from off-putting, these variations help to make Swamp Thing seem a more believable character living in a world where most anything can happen.

The genre changes are most obvious through the presence of multiple artists -- Stephen Bissette and others on the more serious stories, and Shawn McManus on the lighter ones. McManus draws a more detailed, animated, and almost distorted Swamp Thing, expressive and more fully revealed than when Bissette and others draw Swamp Thing in the shadows.

Review: Batgirl Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Gail Simone's second volume of the New 52 Batgirl series, Batgirl: Knightfall Descends, is a compelling book. It veers a tad into generic superheroics, but at other times delivers wonderfully shocking horror, and a good deal of heart, that speak well for the title. Batgirl, on occasion, seems to work too hard to remind the reader of the "girl" sharing the title with the "bat," though its hard to argue with the title's right to do so; even so, the second volume of Batgirl is better than the first, and suggests even better things to come.

[Review contains spoilers]

Knightfall Descends includes two main storylines -- Batgirl's battles against the villains Grotesque and Knightfall respectively -- and then two one-issue stories, the Zero Month origin and the "Night of the Owls" crossover tie-in. Purists may have some objection to Simone's new Batgirl origin but I found it passably fine, neither worrisome nor especially moving. Simone has Barbara Gordon stop an inmate rampaging through the Gotham police department with the help of a borrowed Bat-costume, ultimately meeting Batman himself. The story generally negates but does not specifically rule out the "costume party" origin, which is a nice touch; its larger goal seems to be to bring the maddened James Gordon Jr. into Batgirl's origin, which becomes more important as James's role in this title grows.

Review: Daredevil Vol. 1 by Mark Waid trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

[Review by Doug Glassman, who's just launched a new Tumblr, Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

Daredevil is the rare hero whose adventures are more depressing than Batman. He’s constantly followed by grim darkness and death; his most famous story involves his identity being sold by his drug-addled ex-girlfriend, allowing the Kingpin to ruin his life. A few years ago, he cracked and took over New York’s underbelly during the Shadowland event.

Shortly thereafter, Mark Waid accepted the task of writing a new Daredevil series, bringing a lighter tone (the first six issues of which are collected as Daredevil Vol. 1). Waid’s mission statement is that he wants to read a Daredevil story that “doesn’t drive you to drink afterwards.” His take has been widely praised and won a couple Eisners. But how can the dark, brooding, occasionally murderous Daredevil have such a change in personality without it coming off as contrived?

Review: Blackhawks Vol. 1: The Great Leap Forward trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 04, 2013

That writer Mike Costa's credits include IDW's G.I. Joe and Cobra is no coincidence; the New 52 Blackhawks: The Great Leap Forward is essentially G.I. Joe set in the DC Universe. And it's awesome. DC's inaugural New 52 "Edge" line did not fare well, with over half of the first wave of titles cancelled including Costa's Blackhawks; in a line that included the equally ill-fated Men of War and G.I. Combat, Blackhawks may have seemed just another war title. Instead, Great Leap Forward reads like a snappy, smart, action-packed spy thriller, an echo of Checkmate without the politics.

It's definitely a shame Blackhawks ended when it did, but Great Leap Forward emerges as an enjoyable, self-contained collection.

[Review contains spoilers]

There are no direct G.I. Joe analogues, which might've been fun, but Blackhawks has all the trappings -- an elite UN paramilitary spy force, handling missions beyond the normal. The team is composed of colorful characters, and Costa has a little fun here with the legacy of the Blackhawks. Earlier versions of the Blackhawks team were composed of characters of different nationalities with stereotypical appearances and word choice to match; these Blackhawks have names like "Irishman" and "Canada," but they're all meant ironically (Irishman is a red-haired Ukranian and Canada got his name from a dalliance with a Canadian woman). Each team member brings unique skills to the story, a la G.I. Joe -- Canada is the pilot, Wildman the computer expert, and so on.

Review: Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Friday, February 01, 2013

I've wanted to read Alan Moore's seminal run on Saga of the Swamp Thing for a while, especially in light of Scott Snyder's new DC New 52 Swamp Thing series. Given that Snyder's work itself is influenced by the work of Swamp Thing's creator Len Wein, Moore, and others on Swamp Thing, I'd find it more interesting not to go into Snyder's book blind, but rather with some sense of the works that contributed to this current incarnation. (This series of reviews was written prior to my review of Snyder's Swamp Thing: Raise Them Bones.)

I don't imagine there's much that can be written about Moore's work on Saga of the Swamp Thing that hasn't already been written. At the same time, to keep with my own imperative to write about what I read, I hope the reader will permit me what will be a series of loose and relatively uncoordinated thoughts on DC Comics/Vertigo's Saga of the Swamp Thing collections, which I've been eyeing at my local library. These reflections will run on Fridays for the next few weeks and I encourage anyone who'd like to join me to read along.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 1 begins with issue #20, which Moore wrote to close out the preceding run by Martin Pasko. This in medias res beginning is not too difficult for the reader to understand, especially with the introduction by Wein and writer Ramsey Campbell. Beginning not quite at the beginning, however, creates some distance between Swamp Thing and the reader, even despite that Moore begins to recreate Swamp Thing completely with issue #21.