Uncollected Editions: Giant Robot Maintenance Crew (Cosmic Times)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

[Concluding Doug Glassman's "Indie-Pendence Month"; Doug also Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

I’ve saved the smallest and newest publisher of Indie-Pendence Month for last. Independent comics publisher Cosmic Times started up just a few years back in West Palm Beach, and they are helping assemble a strong local talent base -- local for me, at least. South Florida has a huge amount of untapped creative potential, and Cosmic Times saw that potential after Nathan Hill, Mervyn McKoy, and Dawson Chen turned to Kickstarter to fund a new title. I was happy to make a donation to a book with a title like Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew, as a fan of both giant robots and satire.

Review: Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Geoff Johns's Aquaman series had a rocky start, with a short first arc that seemed more focused on attesting to Aquaman's "coolness" than really telling an Aquaman story itself. Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others, however, is a seven-issue collection that feels exceptionally robust, offers a compelling mystery, and spotlights well both Aquaman, his enemies, and his supporting cast. With The Others, the Aquaman title begins to resemble the great early days of Geoff Johns's Green Lantern run.

[Review contains spoilers]

The Others is the kind of story Johns tells well, if often. Aquaman's long-time foe Black Manta hunts Aquaman's former teammates, the Others, and Aquaman searches for both the Others and Manta over the course of the story, discovering the Others a few at a time -- see Justice Society: The Next Age and Justice League Vol. 1: Origin for something similar. Johns succeeds here in teasing out little details about the characters over the course of the story, rewarding attention and keeping the audience reading (how Vostok got his helmet, for one; the nature of the Prisoner's powers as another; but did anyone catch what happened to Shin's neck?). The end, in trademark Johns fashion, is both action-packed and resonates with the character of Aquaman himself.

Review: Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Blue Diamond trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Writer Tony Bedard follows up his good New 52 Blue Beetle debut with an enjoyable sequel, Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Blue Diamond. The massive eleven-issue trade starts slowly, but picks up steam as it goes along, and if nothing else whet my appetite for the short-lived Threshold series that follows this, Blue Beetle's last collection.

[Review contains spoilers]

The first two chapters of Blue Diamond are the weakest, though they represent well why the book gets stronger from there. In these, Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes has run away to New York so as to keep his scarab powers from further harming his family. There, he encounters a shelter for runaways where new villain Stopwatch uses the runaways to commit crimes. Stopwatch is a rather silly, one-note villain, and despite that the story reflected Jaime's time in New York, it didn't have much to do with him as a character; any number of heroes could have easily fit the same role.

Review: Street Angel Vol. 1: Princess of Poverty trade paperback (Slave Labor Graphics)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

[Continuing Doug Glassman's "Indie-Pendence Month"; Doug also Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

As I mentioned in my review of The Wretch: Everyday Doomsday, Slave Labor Graphics was one of the first small publishers I ever encountered. They tend to put out some of the quirkiest books on the comics market with authors such as Evan Dorkin, Jhonen Vasquez, and Roman Dirge. At points, Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s Street Angel Vol. 1: The Princess of Poverty feels out of place amongst the oddities put out by its publishers; it feels like it should have been published by Fantagraphics or another distributor of “serious graphic novels."

Review: Batman, Incorporated Vol. 1: Demon Star hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Given the glut of Batman books on the market, it's sometimes comforting (if not completely accurate) to consider what role each of them fills: Batman is the flagship or most superheroic of the books, Detective is the mystery stories, Dark Knight focuses on the villains, and so on.

At one time, Grant Morrison's Batman, Inc. was the book that spotlighted Batman's international adventures or his allies from other countries. With the penultimate volume of Morrison's Batman saga, Batman, Inc. Vol. 1: Demon Star, however, I think we have to concede that Batman, Inc., now, is simply about Grant Morrison writing Batman. The international team is still here, but they're hardly the focus; rather Morrison's plot is all over the place, from Batman's past to the far future, with a rollicking story that more evokes Morrison's chaotic Batman and Robin than it does his philosophical Time and the Batman.

Ghostbusters Vol. 5: The New Ghostbusters trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Established Ghostbusters fans will no doubt be enthused by IDW's newly-relaunched title, the first issues of which are collected in Ghostbusters: The New Ghostbusters. As someone who's mainly been familiar with the movies and some half-remembered cartoons, I found this trade tougher to get in to (my misplaced expectations, perhaps, more so than anything the creative team does wrong per se). Despite that these Ghostbusters are "new," new fans will be better off picking up trades of the earlier Ghostbusters series first.

[Review contains spoilers]

Ongoing Ghostbusters writer Erik Burnham's new story starts out well. In the first pages, a crew of ghosts kidnap the "old" Ghostbusters, leaving a crew of associates to fill the void. The "new" Ghostbusters, as I understand it, are characters who've appeared in Burham's stories before, but he does a seamless job of introducing them and the "New Ghostbusters" story gets rolling quickly. Burnham makes the new Ghostbusters interesting and likable as they fumble through their first ghostbusting attempts; Burnham also easily establishes the voices of the original Ghostbusters, too (though I heard Lorenzo Music for Peter Venkman more so than I did Bill Murray).

Review: Wasteland Book 1: Cities of Dust trade paperback (Oni Press)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

[Continuing Doug Glassman's "Indie-Pendence Month"; Doug also Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

Oni Press was one of the many publishers and studios which popped up in the late19 90s after the success of Dark Horse and Image. Oni’s stable of titles, such as Scott Pilgrim, Queen and Country, and Courtney Crumrin, keep the publisher in the spotlight while many of its contemporaries have faded away. Their current ongoing success is Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten’s Wasteland series, which is nearing the fifty-issue mark, an impressive record for any non-licensed title from an independent publisher.

Review: Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan deluxe hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, July 15, 2013

J. Michael Straczynski's Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan collection (which also includes the two-part Moloch story) is not the best of the Before Watchmen collections overall (Darwyn Cooke's Minutemen/Silk Spectre still takes that prize), but Straczynski's Nite Owl, specifically, may be the best of the Before Watchmen titles.

The Before Watchmen stories have played fast and loose with Watchmen lore by questioning the veracity of Watchmen's main source of back story, the first Nite Owl Hollis Mason's book Under the Hood. Straczynski's Nite Owl takes this a step further, telling a story that seems ridiculously incongruent with the Watchmen story, but then in the end proves itself to be remarkably valid -- a story that, with a second look at Watchmen, seems to have been there all along.

DC Trade Solicitations for October 2013 -- DC Villains Omnibus, Green Arrow: Hunter's Moon, Just Imagine Stan Lee

Friday, July 12, 2013

After last month's Superman celebration books, Dark Knight Over Metropolis, Deadshot, and more, DC Comics's October 2013 trade solicitations look a little thin in comparison. Still some good paperbacks and hardcovers to note, however; let's dig in.

DC Comics — The New 52 Villains Omnibus HC

I seem to recall hearing about this one somewhere before. Rather gutsy for DC to announce the giant Villains Month omnibus before the event even arrives, but gathering pre-orders now was probably necessary for getting this out by Christmas.

Green Arrow Vol. 1: Hunter’s Moon TP

Everything I said last month about pre-ordering applies here, too. For the love of god, pre-order this book. We have been waiting forever for collections of Mike Grell's Green Arrow series, and this is one that seems to me imminently on the chopping block; publication, despite the Arrow TV series, is in no way guaranteed. If you want this book, and if you want to see further editions of this series, pre-order, pre-order, pre-order.

Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe Omnibus HC

This omnibus was previously scheduled for last year and I remember some folks were disappointed when it was cancelled. This is a little too Elseworlds-y for me, but I imagine some will be glad to see it back on the schedule.

The Joker: The Clown Prince of Crime TP

Confirmed once and for all that this is the full nine issues of the 1970s Joker series. Seems to me DC is publishing this one a little late, after the big Joker fever has already passed (it lands a month or two after the Death of the Family collections.

The Authority Vol. 2 HC

In terms of scope, I'm partial to the Absolute Authority Vol. 2 (my review), but it's hard to argue with this hardcover that collects issues #13-29 without skipping the ones not written by Mark Millar, giving a fuller reading experience overall.

Your New 52 titles for the month
All-Star Western Vol. 3: The Black Diamond Probability TP

I'm still not a regular All-Star Western reader (catch my review of All-Star Vol. 1 in the Collected Editions Guide to the New 52 ebook), but it's hard to argue with a trade of Jonah Hex vs. Eclipso action.

Red Hood and The Outlaws Vol. 3: Death of the Family TP

Not that the "death" is much of a secret any more, but I was surprised that the solicitations for this trade totally spoil said passing.

Green Lantern Corps Vol. 3: Willpower HC
Red Lanterns Vol. 3: The Second Prophecy TP

These are both "Third Army/First Lantern" tie-in trades, and at one point I thought they were titled as such, but not any more, I guess. Please, please let Red Lanterns be good this time.

Flash Vol. 3: Gorilla Warfare HC
Superman — Action Comics Vol. 3: At The End of Days HC
Swamp Thing Vol. 3: Rotworld—The Green Kingdom TP
Worlds’ Finest Vol. 2: Hunt and Be Hunted TP

That's what caught my eye this month. What's on your reading list?

Review: Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach deluxe hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Brian Azzarello's Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach takes a different approach to telling a Watchmen prequel than did Darwyn Cooke's Minutemen/Silk Spectre. Cooke and Amanda Conner's stories took place behind the scenes of established Watchmen lore, weaving in and out of the original story, with plenty of touchstones -- from echoed images to panel layouts to the origin of that smiley face button -- to remind the reader that these new stories were riffs on the old.

Azzarello's Comedian and Rorschach, however, are almost self-contained stories, less Watchmen prequels and more character studies of each figure. This is somewhat discomfiting, actually; it invites consideration of these two characters on their own, separate from the larger Watchmen story, and that's not necessarily how I'd prefer to see them.

Review: Masterpiece Comics hardcover (Drawn and Quarterly)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

[Continuing Doug Glassman's "Indie-Pendence Month"; Doug also Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

One could call Drawn and Quarterly the Canadian version of Fantagraphics, publishing works from graphic novelists such as Peter Bagge and Daniel Clowes. They also produce anthologies such as the self-titled Drawn and Quarterly, Snake and Bacon, and Tales Designed to Thrizzle.

Drawn and Quarterly stories have a sophisticated and subversive sense of humor that immediately drew me in. I want to thank Comics Should Be Good for introducing me to Drawn and Quarterly in general and the works of Robert “R.” Sikoryak in particular. After publishing his spoof cartoons in a variety of publications over the years, Drawn and Quarterly collected them all in the aptly-titled book Masterpiece Comics.

Review: Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger Vol. 1: A Stranger Among Us trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 08, 2013

The Phantom Stranger, kind of like Oracle Barbara Gordon, was a character that in the pre-Flashpoint era sometimes became no more than a plot device -- need technical jargon, enter Oracle; need to move characters from one mystic place to another, enter Phantom Stranger. Oracle, at least, had her own supporting cast; Phanton Stranger was just an entity that fit whatever the day's plot called for.

For that reason, I don't mind -- and actually really enjoyed -- the changes that Dan Didio makes to the character in Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger: A Stranger Among us, though I recognize that what Stranger purists there are might not be so sanguine. Here, DiDio gives the Stranger an origin, a supporting cast, and makes him something of a lovable bastard, too, all of which positions him well in the "Dark" corner of the new DC Universe.

Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Bulletproof hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 04, 2013

If like me you weren't too keen on the Man of Steel movie, Grant Morrison's Superman -- Action Comics Vol. 2: Bulletproof is the tonic for that. The collection actually only a couple of regular Action Comics issues (thickened out with other material), but Morrison still succeeds in presenting what feels like a complete and detailed story, helped handily by a Silver Age aesthetic that's unafraid to gloss over the smaller details when necessary.

Morrison's is a young, plucky Superman, well-meaning though still finding his way, and it's hard not be enamored with what Morrison creates here.

Review: The American trade paperback (Dark Horse)

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

[Kicking off Doug Glassman's "Indie-Pendence Month"; Doug also Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

It’s no surprise that American comics are dominated by a co-monopoly of DC and Marvel; they even have a trademark on the word “superhero.”

One publisher has survived the market’s ups and downs like no other: Dark Horse Comics. Founded over twenty-five years ago, the company has put out beloved original books like Hellboy and The Goon along with key licenses like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, of course, Aliens vs. Predator. They’ve published hundreds of Star Wars comics after gaining the license in the late eighties, and even if Marvel takes the license now that Disney owns the franchise, Dark Horse has shown an incredible resilience. One of Dark Horse’s earliest titles and hits was The American by Aliens scribe Mark Verheiden.

Actually, that credit should be reversed: The American was Verheiden’s first work in comic books. It’s similar in tone to contemporaries such as The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil: Born Again and Watchmen. But while many comics of this era imitated the darker tone of those books without the content, The American keeps a strong edge of satire. Verheiden is primarily a screenwriter, and much like his work on Aliens, his writing analyzes the changing state of media, although The American is more concerned with truth than media speed. He echoes what Frank Miller was trying to say about talking heads and media vapidity in The Dark Knight Returns without the confusing story interruptions.

So who is the American? The answer contains major spoilers.

Review: Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair deluxe hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, July 01, 2013

Of them all, Len Wein's Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair is the volume I'd most suggest skipping, which officially makes Darwyn Cooke's Minutemen/Silk Spectre the best collection of the bunch and J. Michael Straczynski's Nite Owl (of which I received an advance review copy) the best individual miniseries. Your results may, of course, necessarily vary.

Though between Jae Lee and Steve Rude (drawing and lettering), there's plenty nice to look at in Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair, I felt this book contributed the least to the goal of fleshing out or re-imagining the motiviations of the Watchmen characters. Ozymandias is an over-narrated rehash of what the reader could mostly glean on their own from Watchmen; Corsair falls apart in collected form, these two-page backup stories being too choppy to be read one after another after another. The Dollar Bill one-shot here, too, fleshes out this one-note Watchmen character, but fails to surprise or in any way modify the reader's understanding of the character.