Review: Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 30, 2013

The flagship New 52 title hits its stride with Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis. Writer Geoff Johns pares down the cast such to focus on a few very specific characters and relationships, and it brings some welcome depth to the book (not to mention the story's aquatic antagonists). With the most recent Aquaman collection, that title has been on an upswing, and it buoys Justice League along with it in this crossover.

[Review contains spoilers]

Throne of Atlantis's first two issues explore the relationship between Wonder Woman and Superman, and the over-protectiveness Diana feels toward the League and her friends, including Steve Trevor. Johns's kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman in Justice League Vol. 2: The Villains Journey was wholly unconvincing, as it was meant to be; in Throne, Johns has the characters back up and get to know one another better, and what emerges is a believable basis for their attraction. Superman finds someone who understands his responsibilities; Wonder Woman learns how to have a private life amidst her superheroics. Johns's Wonder Woman is a wholly different character from Brian Azzarello's portrayal in the main series; while I like Azzarello's portrayal, I'm curious here for the first time what a Johns-written Wonder Woman series might be like.

Review: Shazam! Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

There's just a handful of references to the larger DC Universe in the new Shazam! collection (collecting the Justice League back-up stories). This dearth of outside influence, plus the presence of writer Geoff Johns and especially artist Gary Frank, puts the reader heavily in mind of their recent Batman: Earth One collaboration.

Shazam! could as easily be Shazam!: Earth One, and it succeeds as a new graphic-novel type introduction to the former Captain Marvel, of a kind we haven't seen since Jerry Ordway's seminal Power of Shazam graphic novel. Ordway's graphic novel and subsequent series (overdue for large-scale collection) made Captain Marvel modern for the time, while still hewing to the character's classic elements and tone. Shazam! nods to those elements, but the tone is modern now for the present day; Billy Batson has never been farther from his "gee whiz" elements.

Review: Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Down trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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

When the current Captain Marvel title launched, there were doubts that it could make it past six issues. By the end of the issues collected in Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Down, however, the book warranted a five-part crossover led off by a special one-shot.

Much of Captain Marvel’s success can be owed to a strong and passionate fanbase called the “Carol Corps.” Mobilizing through Twitter and Tumblr and in constant contact with author Kelly Sue DeConnick and the various artists, the Corps has established itself as a bulwark against sexism in comics. I even got official Carol Corps dog tags after meeting DeConnick at a signing in Tampa. Many new readers have flocked to Marvel Comics with Captain Marvel as a gateway, and while Down isn’t perfect, it’s easy to see the character’s appeal.

Review: Demon Knights Vol. 2: The Avalon Trap trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Paul Cornell's first Demon Knights collection was a frenetic, often claustrophobic romp in which the motley heroes tried to fend off the destruction of a small village. Though seven issues, I felt it read like one whole, and good, graphic novel.

Though the second collection, Demon Knights: The Avalon Trap, essentially also tells one story, it is less cohesive and therefore feels less dynamic than the first volume. If the first book seemed like a graphic novel, this one is more like a collection of issues. Arguably not a lot of real import happens to the group in these pages, though in the main I still liked the book; it profiles a couple of key characters and also generally offers a taste of the supernatural not found elsewhere in the DC Universe.

Review: Arrow Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

This might be one of those that works better in single issues than in a collection.

There are many things I like about DC Comics's weekly offering -- that indeed they're weekly, for one, and for another that they offer a different content option of new material every day (or they did; I thought I heard some of these were being cancelled and relaunched): Arrow, Smallville Season Eleven, Legends of the Dark Knight, Ame-Comi Girls, the Batman Beyond titles, and so on.

I also aesthetically like the horizontal "full screen" format of the books when reading them on a mobile device. It's not Thrillbent or Marvel Infinite, nor does it needs to be; rather it feels like a "traditional" comic book, but designed for digital, and enjoyed these very much when I've had a chance to sample them.

Review: Deadpool Vol. 1: Dead Presidents trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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

Before Marvel NOW, Deadpool was a character in need of a reboot thanks to massive overexposure. With at least three ongoings, multiple mini-series, numerous guest appearances, membership in X-Force and a variety of cover initiatives, Deadpool either equaled or surpassed Wolverine’s heights ... and at the same time, experienced a huge variety in quality.

The line-wide revamp reduced this back to one title with a new creative team (along with a team slot on the Thunderbolts, which makes sense considering that team’s new status quo). The issues collected in Deadpool: Dead Presidents feel closer to the glory days of Joe Kelly than any story featuring Wade since the early volumes of Fabian Nicieza’s Cable and Deadpool.

Review: Saga Vol. 2 trade paperback (Image Comics)

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Precious little happens in Brian K. Vaughan's Saga Vol. 2, but I don't think ardent fans will mind. If ever there was a comic that favored (strong) character development over plot, it's this one.

Irrespective, Vaughan takes the opportunity here to pair the characters in new and interesting ways, giving us a chance to experience them differently than in the first volume; artist Fiona Staples continues a remarkable creative streak, depicting some of the strangest aliens to ever make the page. All in all, as long as you prepare yourself for the book's pacing, the second Saga collection won't disappoint.

[Review contains spoilers]

Saga, Vol. 1 very directly (over the course of six issues) moved characters Marko and Alana from point A to point B; for a good amount of the time, their only sounding boards were one another. Vaughan breaks that up almost immediately here, sending Marko on a mission with his mother while Alana remains behind with Marko's father. Though the characters do reach another "point B" by the end of this book, Saga Vol. 2 is much less about the journey nor is it much about the destination, but mainly about the talking in between.

DC Trade Solicitations for December 2013 - Batman and Son, Batman '66, Englehart Green Lantern, Byrne Man of Steel

Friday, September 13, 2013

Another quieter set of DC Comics trade paperbacks and collections for December 2013 -- not a lot of large, flashy books, but there are some nice continuity-gap-filling titles here, including a new collection in the Steve Englehart Green Lantern series and a new Man of Steel volume in the Byrne series. Let's take a look at what's being offered this month:

Villains Month 3-D Motion Complete Set

What th-- Hey, this isn't a collection! What's this doing in DC's collections section? Anyway, if you're still bent on getting all the 3-D covers (which, once they're second printing, I'm not sure the value, necessarily), here they are for a measly $200. I'd opt for the Villains Month Omnibus myself, in that case.

Absolute Superman/Batman Vol. 2 HC

Collects the "Absolute Power" storyline with art by Carlos Pacheco, "Vengeance" with art by Ed McGuiness, a one-shot Supergirl issue with art by Ian Churchill, all written by Jeph Loeb. This book also collects, for the first time, the issue #26 written by Loeb's late son Sam, with twenty-six different artists.

Batman ‘66: The TV Stories TP

We've been wondering what this collection contains for a while, and as it turns out, it is not the first collection of the Batman '66 digital series. Instead, these are various 1960s era Batman and Detective Comics issues that were adapted for or influenced the Adam West TV show of the time. Includes Batman #53, 73, 121, 140, 169 and 171 and Detective #230, 346, and 359

Batman: Batman and Son TP (New Edition)

This is called Batman and Son, but as a matter of fact, it's the paperback of the recent Black Glove Deluxe hardcover, collecting the contents of both the original Batman and Son and Black Glove collections. Possibly with recent Bat-events, DC thought "Batman and Son" was catchier for the paperback than "Black Glove."

Demon: From The Darkness TP

I wondered at one point whether this release was tied to a new Demon series, but I haven't heard anything about that. This collects the four-issue Matt Wagner miniseries that preceded the regular Demon series that ran almost 60 issues. Also included, Wagner's single issue of the series, #22. Maybe a collection of the Alan Grant or Garth Ennis Demon issues will follow.

Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 3 TP

This third collection of Steve Englehart's early 1980s Green Lantern stories takes the book right through Crisis on Infinite Earths (and earns it a place on the DC Trade Paperback Timeline, once this collection comes out). The book Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 3 picks up where this book leaves off.

Superman: The Man of Steel Vol. 8 TP

Probably the most relevant aspect of this latest Man of Steel collection is that it looks at a relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman, though things go differently than they have in the New 52. There's also elements set up in this book that play out much later in the new Dark Knight Over Metropolis collection. The next collection or so would bring us real close to the "Supergirl Saga" that I've wanted to see collected for a long time; with Zod's renewed popularity, I'm hoping more Man of Steel collections are on the horizon (even a hardcover?).

Demon Knights Vol. 3: The Gathering Storm TP

This collection wraps up the remaining uncollected Demon Knights issues -- Paul Cornell's #13-15, and then Robert Venditti's #16-23. Eleven issues is a lot for this collection.

Green Lantern: Wrath of the First Lantern HC

This crossover collection includes the final issues for all the Geoff Johns-era Green Lantern creative teams; all of these issues can also be found in the individual titles' Vol. 3 collections.

Katana Vol. 1: Soultaker TP

Collects Katana #1-6 plus Justice League Dark #23,1: The Creeper, making this the earliest-published collection of a Villains Month issue. Interesting that the Katana villain was in the Justice League Dark issue; will we see further ties between these series?

Batwing Vol. 3: Enemy of The State TP
Flash Vol. 3: Gorilla Warfare HC
Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Death of Magic TP
Superboy Vol. 3: Lost TP

That's what I was thinking of buying this month. How about you?

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Iron hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

After two exemplary collections -- a great debut and an auspicious follow-up -- it was perhaps bound to happen that a volume of Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman wouldn't thrill me as much. Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Iron continues Azzarello's successful run on Wonder Woman and there's not overmuch to complain about here, except for the fact that this volume isn't terribly different than the one that proceeded it. Azzarello adds some interesting new friends and enemies to the cast, but in all I felt like I'd read this one before.

[Review contains spoilers]

Surprisingly, the storyline I liked best in Iron was that of the newly-revived First Born, trying to recover his mystic armor and accoutrements. I felt the First Born's appearance came out of nowhere, until I read the conclusion of the previous book again and understood that it was the First Born, and not this book's major guest star, appearing in the Arctic on the last pages first two panels. The First Born himself is not a well-differentiated villain, seemingly a bruiser like so many others, nor were his trials significantly different than what Diana faced in volume one, Blood -- the sea battle with Poseidon seemed especially recycled.

Review: Adventures of Superman: Gil Kane hardcover (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

[Guest reviewer Greg Elias writes for Speed Force]

By the time Gil Kane and Marv Wolfman teamed up on Action Comics, Kane was already revered for his groundbreaking work at both DC Comics and Marvel. That reputation is likely the main reason that Adventures of Superman: Gil Kane exists. From the Silver Age redesigns of Green Lantern and The Atom to a prolific and legendary turn as the Marvel cover artist, the late Kane had an untouchable pedigree. This volume contains the entirety of his 1980s stint on the Man of Steel, along with two specials, a couple of backup stories and an oft-reprinted gem of an Annual.

Review: Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 09, 2013

In comparison to the last Green Lantern-title crossover, War of the Green Lanterns, in both story and organization Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army is a big improvement.

This crossover trade, which includes issues #13-16 of each of the Green Lantern titles plus the Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 and a story from the Green Lantern Annual #1, does a better job than War in balancing the disparate stories in the various series. Each title's storyline is self-contained enough, but both offer sufficient cliffhangers to make turning to a new series seem natural, and also the titles feed into one another well enough that the transitions don't feel forced.

Though this crossover collection reads a bit rough at the outset, it's ultimately an enjoyable Green Lantern epic. All the issues collected here (and more) can be found in other trades, but it's hard not to be impressed by a 400-page hardcover of Green Lantern goodness.

Review: Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 05, 2013

What we understand at the end of Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope, which concludes Tony Bedard's first year on the title, is that probably most of the ongoing story could have been resolved in the first trade, if not for a couple of tangents on which Bedard sent the characters. This was true for Red Lanterns, too (though Bedard's story is better); one imagines an edict that each Green Lantern title simply needed to fill twelve issues and get the characters to a certain point so that the first New 52 Green Lantern crossover could take place. Certainly that's what this collection feels like, looking at it in total.

At the same time, despite its circuitous plot, New Guardians remains a perversely enjoyable series. As I mentioned in my review of the first New Guardians collection, Bedard offers a compelling team of fan favorite characters who are fun to see interact and begin to coalesce as a team, even despite how goofy Bedard writes, especially, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. New Guardians is a book like cotton candy -- brightly colored and momentarily satisfying; even if it doesn't stay with you for long, there's something about it that's strangely addicting.

Review: Castle: Richard Castle's Deadly Storm graphic novel (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

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

One of my favorite shows, Castle, is returning to the airwaves in a few weeks, so I thought it would be apt to review one of its tie-in graphic novels. Comic book tie-ins to prime-time shows are increasingly popular, with Heroes being one of the largest efforts (and one of the rare cases where the comics often ended up being better than the show). Since Castle revolves around a writer, it was a natural fit to turn some of Richard Castle’s books into comics. In an unusual move, the comics, such as Castle: Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm, actually “adapt” the novels Castle wrote before he met Kate Beckett at the start of the series, when he was still writing the character “Derrick Storm."

Review: Mind MGMT Vol. 1: The Manager hardcover (Dark Horse Comics)

Monday, September 02, 2013

It's hard to say much that's specific about Matt Kindt's Mind MGMT Vol. 1: The Manager without spoiling the whole thing. It is in the conspiracy theory genre, owing its roots to shows like The X-Files (and certainly earlier than that) though perhaps stylistically having more in common with Lost (beyond simply Damon Lindelof's introduction). It has an element of meta-fiction to it, a la David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Mind MGMT, for another comparison, might be what Cameron Stewart's Sin Titulo (which I'll be reviewing soon) would have been if it were an ongoing series, or vice versa if Mind MGMT were a webcomic.

Mind MGMT requires more from the reader than I originally expected. A keen eye, for one, but mostly patience. The core of the book is a mystery, and that mystery does not unfold quickly. I understand Kindt conceptualized Mind MGMT as a book readers would want to read in monthly installments so as to be able to pore over and discuss the book's puzzles; for me, this would have been tough. While reading, I considered I might have dropped the series around the third issue; having finished, however, I'm keen to pick up the soon-to-be-released second volume. The message is, if you're going to read The Manager, commit to reading the whole thing before passing judgment.