Review: Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre deluxe hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Whether the Before Watchmen books should exist, disowned as they were by Watchmen creator Alan Moore, is a valid conversation, but one that I find unresolvable. Even if Moore had embraced the books, the result would be the same -- they exist, they're arriving on shelves now, people will read them.

I don't disregard the larger conversation and by all means, feel free to continue to have it if you want in the comments section. My reviews of the Before Watchmen books, however, seek to address the questions that I think I can answer, at least for myself -- accepting as a given the existence of the Before Watchmen books, are they themselves enjoyable reading? Do they expand on or contribute to the story of Watchmen in interesting or useful ways?

For Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre by Darwyn Cooke and then Cooke and Amanda Conner respectively, the answer is "yes." Cooke's Minutemen, especially, is an "untold" Watchmen tale that shines new light on some of the book's background characters and even helps flesh out those in the forefront. Cooke and Conner's Silk Spectre is more uneven, though it's a worthwhile read even if only to see how Conner's art meets the occasion.

Review: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: The Dominators trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Paul Levitz's first Legion of Super-Heroes foray into the New 52 offered a smidgen more action than characterization than I might have preferred, suggesting perhaps a "dumbing down" of the Legion for the DC relaunch. With Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: The Dominators, however, Levitz rights the ship quite well. The team is pulling in a bunch of different directions at once, in inimitable Paul Levitz style, and he balances them well, peppering the engaging "A" plot with two or three different smaller "B" plots and character vignettes. All the more a pity that Legion has been cancelled, because when Levitz is on it, he's on it, and he's on it in The Dominators.

Review: Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith -- Spiral trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

For someone who's unfamiliar with the expanded Star Wars universe, Dark Horse's Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith -- Spiral comes as something of a shock. This is a story quite removed from the Star Wars movies -- taking place more than 2,000 years(!) before Episode I. As such, some of who fought whom and which group betrayed the other will be hard for a new reader to grasp at first -- there is an impressive amount of mythology here. At the same time, by the end of the first chapter, once a Wookie appears and the lightsabers come out, Spiral begins to feel enough like "traditional" Star Wars that any early misgivings ought dissipate.

Review: Avenging Spider-Man: The Good, the Green and the Ugly trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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

Multiple Spider-Man titles are by no means a new thing, but in the aftermath of the “One More Day” reboot, the various books were all converted into extra issues of Amazing Spider-Man. However, the allure of multiple ongoing books was too strong, resulting in the launch of Avenging Spider-Man last year.

Despite the name, Avenging is not a Spidey book in the vein of Sensational or Friendly Neighborhood. It’s actually the newest version of Marvel Team-Up, which has traditionally featured Spidey teaming up with a various Marvel hero. The title makes sense when you consider that Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man are two of Marvel’s most recognizable titles, so combining them is a good marketing strategy.

Review: Criminal Vol. 4: Bad Night trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Monday, June 17, 2013

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

I'm halfway through the six Criminal collections, and the series has been so delightful that I'm considering purchasing the deluxe edition hardcovers even though I've been borrowing the shorter trades from my local public library. At $50 each, though, they're quite expensive, so a part of me has been continuing to read the series to see if the quality drops enough to warrant not buying the deluxe editions.

With the fourth collection, Criminal: Bad Night, I haven't found that qualitative drop-off the cynic in me has come to expect. Instead, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips ... well, what can I say about how good this series is that I haven't already said about the first three volumes?

DC Trade Solicitations for September 2013 - Superman: Celebration of 75 Years, Death of the Family, Deadshot

Friday, June 14, 2013

Superman #44 - Dark Knight Over Metropolis Part 1Time for DC Comics's September 2013 trade paperback and collections solicitations. We've all been waiting for these solicits to arrive to finally get the full scoop on DC's now annual September event, which this time is Villains Month/Forever Evil.

But September's solicitations also bring with them a spate of Superman-themed collections (timed, certainly, for the Man of Steel movie, though one would think these would be better off arriving now than being order-able now), plus more Batman: Death of the Family collections and a few odds and ends. Let's take a look, shall we?

Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years HC
Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years HC

Though it's nice to see Superman and especially Lois Lane receiving these anniversary collections, there's some confusion in the contents list. The Superman volume, for instance, includes Action Comics #0, #1, and #2. That zero issue is undoubtedly the New 52 Zero Month issue, while Action #1 and #2 are probably the 1938 issues, though the solicitation doesn't make that distinction between the original numbering and New 52 issues.  (If it turns out the Superman collection includes the New 52 Action Comics #1-2 and not the 1938 issues, I imagine some people will have something to say about that.)

One might equally wonder in the Superman book whether the Superman issues listed are pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, or New 52 (Superman has changed its numbering three times, while Action Comics has only changed numbering twice). Surely issues like Superman #11, #17, and #53 are the Golden Age comics and not the Byrne era; at the same time, Superman #75 listed right after them is probably the Dan Jurgens "Death of Superman" issue.

The issue listings for the Lois Lane book are equally unclear.

Superman: The Man of Steel—Believe TP

This collection of seemingly inspirational-themed Superman stories includes some nice uncollected issues from various eras, including Adventures of Superman #623 by Joe Casey (during a run where Casey never had Superman resort to violence to save the day), Action Comics #810 by Joe Kelly, and Superman #185 by Geoff Johns, all from the introspective time just before and after the Ending Battle storyline.

Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis TP 

Please pre-order this. Don't read the description DC has released, which unequivocally spoils the last page of the book.  Just take my advice and buy it. This trade collects an early Dan Jurgens/Jerry Ordway/Roger Stern Superman story -- perhaps one of my favorite Superman eras -- in which a murder in Gotham brings Batman to Metropolis, just as Superman is dealing with he, Lois, and others being targeted by Intergang. It's an interesting mystery, there's great interplay between Superman and Batman (surpassed only perhaps by Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude's World's Finest), and the end of the story is an important event in post-Crisis continuity -- I've long thought that every fan knows what happens at the end of "Dark Knight Over Metropolis," they just don't realize this is where it happened.

For years, Dark Knight Over Metropolis has been on my personal short list for issues I'd like to see collected. I will be crushed -- crushed! -- if this book doesn't make it through.

Superman Adventures: The Man of Steel TP

Superman: H’el On Earth HC

Collects Superman #13-17, Superboy #14-17, and Supergirl #14-17. As with DC's other recent crossover collections, I'll be skipping this and just picking the individual volumes for each books.

Batman, Incorporated Vol. 2: Gotham’s Most Wanted HC

Villains Month nothing -- this is the big release of September 2013 (actually doesn't come out until November). Includes the Batman, Inc. special, which itself doesn't actually come out until August.

Batman and Robin Vol. 3: Death of the Family HC
Catwoman: Death of the Family TP
Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3 -- Emperor Penguin HC

Also here comes the "Death of the Family" tie in volumes, the Batman books in November and the Catwoman book in October. These will make for kind of funny reading, because Batman, Inc. Vol. 2 takes place in the middle of these, after "Death of the Family" but before "Requiem" -- for the complete story, you may have to switch back and forth between volumes.

Deadshot: Beginnings TP

I don't feel nearly as strongly about this book as I do Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis, but if you want this Deadshot volumes, I recommend pre-ordering it; it feels like another one that could be cancelled before publication. Includes a couple of Batman issues plus John Ostrander's four-part Deadshot miniseries; I'm (just a little) disappointed they didn't include Deadshot's top hat-wearing appearance, too, and mildly surprised they didn't find a way to work some Green Arrow material in here in reference to the Arrow TV show.

Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis HC

The Aquaman book, disappointingly, still holds at collecting Aquaman #14-16, #0, and Justice League #15-17.  The Justice League: Throne of Atlantis book includes all of those issues and more, with just the exception of the zero issue. This is a definite skip for me; I might as well just get the Justice League book and buy Aquaman #0 digitally for a fraction of the price.

Justice League of America Vol. 1: World’s Most Dangerous HC

I'm curious whether DC will include all 52 state variants within this collection.  Maybe thumbnails of each?

I, Vampire Vol. 3: Wave of Mutilation TP
Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Death Is For Suckers TP

The final collection of I, Vampire (sob!) and also the last collection of Adam Glass on Suicide Squad -- I started out quite wary of his run but grew to like it quite a bit.

Those are my picks -- what's on your buying list for September? (Hint -- Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis!)

Review: Legion: Secret Origin trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Paul Levitz's Legion: Secret Origin has an interesting premise, that of examining how the civilizations of the future reacted to the founding of the Legion of Super-Heroes, kind of like a DC Universe: Legacies or Marvels for the Legion. Unfortunately, what inroads Levitz makes are terribly surface, far from the depth of a book like Marvels. Secret Origin is also repetitious and decompressed, only really getting to the meat of the story in the last two issues, and even then not in an especially engaging manner.

Legion: Secret Origin takes a long time to tell a story not all that "secret," most of which the dedicated Legion reader already knows or could guess anyway. Those less familiar with the Legion will find this book dry; if Secret Origin was part of DC Comics's attempt to make Legion of Super-Heroes succeed in the New 52, it's not a surprise that title was recently cancelled.

Review: Glory, Vol. 1: The Once and Future Destroyer trade paperback (Image Comics)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Glory Vol. 1: Once and Future Destroyer[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

Despite the many flaws of Rob Liefeld’s work, he can at least take solace in the fact that his concepts have been turned into modern classics by more talented creators. Alan Moore used Supreme for a post-modern take on Superman, while more recently, Brandon Graham and a host of artists have transformed Prophet into a unique space epic. Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell’s Glory, Vol. 1: The Once and Future Destroyer, another of the recent “Liefeld revivals,” provides a clever take on the concept of a warrior woman.

Review: Batman - Detective Comics Vol. 2: Scare Tactics hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Batman - Detective Comics Vol. 2: Scare TacticsTony Daniel's Batman -- Detective Comics Vol. 2: Scare Tactics offers some exceptional moments, but unfortunately not enough for me to recommend this book to anyone except a very certain kind of Batman reader. For me, this volume of Detective Comics failed to impress enough that I might be inclined to drop the series entirely, except for my curiosity about what new writer John Layman (Chew) might bring to the series.

[Review contains spoilers]

Through a couple of exceptional collections in the Dick-Grayson-as-Batman era, Tony Daniel has made his Batman run synonymous with the villain Black Mask, and the best part of Scare Tactics is getting to see Daniel recreate Black Mask for the New 52. As I mentioned in my Night of the Owls review, Daniel takes advantage of the tie-in issue collected here to smooth over some of the unexplained jumps between the old continuity and the New 52 -- how Jeremiah Arkham can be back running the asylum, how Roman Sionis is alive and remembers his time as Black Mask, etc. Daniel handles all of this well and establishes the new mind-controlling Black Mask as a credible threat for Batman in the New 52.

Review: World's Greatest Super-Heroes hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, June 06, 2013

World's Greatest Super-Heroes by Paul Dini and Alex Ross[Guest reviewer Zach King blogs about movies as The Cinema King]

I've spent the past few months looking at DC's newest version of the "Greatest Stories Ever Told" trades, which sought to collect the best and the brightest of DC's most iconic characters. As far as iconic goes, though, you could do worse than Paul Dini and Alex Ross, the creative team behind The World's Greatest Super-Heroes, which collects the pair's six oversized graphic novels on top DC characters facing real-world problems.

While The World's Greatest Super-Heroes isn't a part of the twelve-book "Greatest Stories" series proper, both projects seem similar -- collect in one volume a snapshot of the characters that encapsulates the heart of who they are and why they're heroes. The latter is especially significant; aside from fleeting references, there's not a super-villain in the whole book.

Wednesday Talkback: Cover enhancements on trade paperbacks?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

So with official announcement of DC Comics's September Villains Month/Forever Evil, I only half-seriously asked the following on Twitter:
But it got me thinking ... with all the controversy over cover enhancements -- really cool effect or high-priced throwback to the 1990s -- would you want to see trades start to get cover enhancements, too?

I couldn't think of many times this had already been done -- no doubt you all can tell me more in the comments section -- but at least one is Spectre: Crimes and Punishments, the first (and only) collection of the John Ostrander/Tom Mandrake Spectre series, which came with a glow-in-the-dark cover. And then of course the Batman: Death of the Family hardcover will have an acetate dust jacket to mimic the die-cut covers from the single issues.

It's an open forum today on Collected Editions -- sound-off in the comments section whether you'd like to see cover enhancements on trades -- die-cuts, 3D covers, holograms, you name it -- or anything else you're thinking about ...

Review: Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Family Tree trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, June 03, 2013

Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Family TreeScott Snyder's Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Family Tree contains just four Swamp Thing issues, plus the "Zero Month" issue and the first Swamp Thing annual. As such, the book comes off a little thin; while the reader is treated to the first appearance of the new Alec- Holland-as-Swamp-Thing, the story mainly serves to spotlight one of Swamp Thing's long-time enemies.

Though Swamp Thing and companion title Animal Man began at the same time and are both racing toward the "Rotworld" crossover, Animal Man has succeeded in standing as a title on its own; with this foreshortened volume, Swamp Thing continues to feel like a title biding its time until the crossover, even if in generally enjoyable fashion.