Review: Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

[Guest reviewer Greg Elias writes for Speed Force]

Since the 1980s, the artwork of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez has been the marketing standard for DC Comics. From lunch boxes to Valentines and toys to apparel, Garcia-Lopez’s clean and fluid style is immediate and definitive, capturing the grace and power of DC’s superheroes and villains. Though it is tempting to name Deadman or even the Metal Men as his signature subject, his work on the Man of Steel stands out as the artist’s strongest sequential output, making him a perfect name to spotlight in the second Adventures of Superman hardcover.

Review: Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Vol. 4 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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

As enjoyable as Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye is, it spent its first year not entirely sure of what story it wanted to tell. James Roberts used that time to introduce characters, set up plot points, and reveal numerous retcons about the years before the Great War and the rise of Optimus Prime and Megatron. The first two issues of Volume 4 work in a similar manner, but the story finally swerves into a massive climax with the reintroduction of Overlord, the villain of Last Stand of the Wreckers. It’s the first major change of status quo in the title and it unleashed a torrent of changes in the next arc and the franchise as a whole.

Review: Batman and Robin Vol. 2: Pearl hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Peter Tomasi's first Batman and Robin volume was one of the best debuts of the New 52, a sweeping eight-issue saga that frankly deserved to have been published as a graphic novel. I therefore picked up Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason's Batman and Robin Vol. 2: Pearl with much eagerness, expecting indeed to find a pearl between the pages.

Unfortunately, Batman and Robin Vol. 2 is lesser than Batman and Robin Vol. 1. Of the seven issues collected in this book, Tomasi has to give up four to various crossovers and events; though Tomasi attempts to tell his own story around these, the result is disjointed. There's good ideas here, but the pieces don't come together especially in the emotional way that they did in the first book.

Marvel to release Annihilation Omnibus

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Friday, November 22, 2013

[Doug Glassman Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

The upcoming Annihilation Omnibus is one of the most anticipated collections of 2014, and rightly so, especially since the three trades which made it up have been out of print for a while. It was a major revamp of Marvel's cosmic properties, many of which had stayed dormant for some time. Nova was redeveloped into the equivalent of the Ion incarnation of Kyle Rayner and the Silver Surfer regained relevance; villains such as the Super-Skrull and Ronan the Accuser were turned into anti-heroes. One of its best elements is the sheer size of the threat involved: a massive fleet of world-consuming insectoids led by Annihilus, an underused Fantastic Four villain who finally reached A-list villain status.

Moreover, the sequel crossover, "Annihilation: Conquest," led the way for the creation of the new Guardians of the Galaxy. I think we'll see a Conquest Omnibus announced before 2014 is over to tie in with the upcoming movie.

The only major problem with Annihilation is that it starts very, very slowly. The "Drax the Destroyer" mini-series is tedious, even though we do get to see Lunatik and Paibok the Power-Skrull among other classic cosmic villains. You can probably skim through it and not miss anything if it ends up in the book before the "Prologue" issue. Also, if you're a fan of guidebooks, you'll enjoy the "Nova Corps Files" one-shot, which explains who some of the more obscure characters are and occasionally irons out the timeline troubles that can pop up when numerous mini-series cross over.

$125 is a bit much when the original trades cost about $25-35. If you have the time and patience, you might be able to track down all three of the original trades at cons or comic book stores. But if you're interested in cosmic Marvel, and especially if you enjoyed Infinity Gauntlet, then Annihilation is a definite get in any form.

Review: Star Wars: Legacy Vol. II Book 1: Prisoner of the Floating World trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

As I've acknowledged before, I'm something of a Star Wars traditionalist. If you're going to tell me a Star Wars story, let's have it star Luke, Leia, and Han, please, or even the prequel trilogy characters in Clone Wars. Though neither Lost Tribe of the Sith nor Dawn of the Jedi were bad stories, my interest is not as focused when the characters aren't familiar or even the familiar trappings of Jedis versus the Sith or the Empire aren't present, as was the case in these stories set in Star Wars's ancient past.

Star Wars: Legacy II Vol. 1: Prisoner of the Floating World is a different beast, the first Star Wars comic I've read now set in Star Wars's future. More familiar trappings are here and as such I was more comfortable with the story. It takes a little re-reading to get straight the Imperial Court versus the Jedi Council and Galactic Alliance, but once that's done, Prisoner settles down to a story of a kid on a backwoods world whose life is upturned by the battles of Jedis and Sith, a la A New Hope, and from there Prisoner is a fairly accessible Star Wars book.

Review: Spider-Man: The Gauntlet Vol. 4: Juggernaut hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

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

Despite the name, Spider-Man: The Gauntlet Vol. 4: Juggernaut has very little to do with the “Gauntlet” story cycle, which saw a number of villains upgraded by the Kraven family. This lack of tie-in to the ongoing story is actually a good thing considering that the rest of the trade is doing its hardest to win back old-school Amazing Spider-Man fans. Three years later, the “Gauntlet” storyline, and the “Grim Hunt” story it led up to, are just bumps in the road for Peter Parker. The first story collected here, “The Sting,” by Fred Van Lente and Michael Gaydos, is the one most clearly set in the modern era, with an appearance by the new, female Scorpion and references to the then-ongoing “Dark Reign” plotline.

Review: Star Trek Vol. 6: After Darkness trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Star Trek Vol. 6: After Darkness speaks well for IDW's ongoing "new Trek" series. Writer Mike Johnson gets the tone and voice of the movie Trek characters perfectly; though the trappings are familiar, this clearly feels like a story told within the new universe and not just The Original Series with new faces. In fact, After Darkness is even a little more Trek-y than the recent Into Darkness movie, with some nice sci-fi technobabble in the main story's conclusion.

Really the only place this book struggles is in serving as a follow-up to Into Darkness itself. The book is called "After Darkness" and takes place after Darkness, but the story is mostly tertiary to the movie; aside from a couple of cut-scenes, it wouldn't have been hard to set this story after Star Trek and before Into Darkness. That's a tiny quibble, however, since I wasn't so impressed with Into Darkness and found After Darkness to be a rousing story irrespective.

DC Trade Solicitations for February 2014 - Trinity War tie-ins, Batman/Superman, Batwoman, Brubaker Catwoman

Friday, November 15, 2013

Controversy is the name of the game this month with DC Comics's February 2014 trade paperback and collections solicitations. Everybody's got an opinion about how DC should be collecting their crossovers these days, and the February solicitations will give you a lot more to chew over -- Justice League, Green Lantern, Pandora, and Phantom Stranger all collect parts, but not the whole, of certain storylines.

I look at all of that and more, as follows:

Justice League Vol. 4: The Grid HC

This will undoubtedly fan the flames of concern about DC's Trinity War collection plans. The new solicitation for Justice League Vol. 4 now includes issues #18-20 (the "Grid" storyline), skips #21, and then collects parts 1 and 6 of Trinity War. Those who don't follow Justice League of America and Justice League Dark are upset, I know, that some double-buying seems to need to be involved; I'm disconcerted by the new absence of issue #21, which ties-in to the Shazam! story that I enjoyed. Will we ever see this issue collected somewhere? Why publish this book with five issues, when six is not uncommon?

Animal Man Vol. 4: Splinter Species TP

I love the "Not Final Cover" cover of this one, with all the white space; it reminds me of some of the Animal Man covers during Grant Morrison's run. Don't read the solicits for this one, which spoil the end of "Rotworld."

Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Cross World HC

Collects Batman/Superman #1-4 and also the Justice League #23.1 issue featuring Darkseid. The Villains Month issue is written by Batman/Superman's Greg Pak and I'm glad to see it collected, but I wonder if it actually relates to this story or if this was just a convenient place to put it.

Batwoman Vol. 4: This Blood is Thick TP

Collects the last of J. H. Williams and Haden Blackman's issues on Batwoman. As some commenters have pointed out, this appears to be the first instance of a New 52 collection series switching from hardcover to paperback for its first-run collections. It seems curious to me that DC did this with Williams and Blackman's final trade; if, one assumes, the concern is that the book won't sell well enough for hardcover, I'd imagine that sales drop would come with Marc Andreyko's first trade (no reflection on Andreyko), not Williams and Hayden's last. It's equally possible that low sales have caused the switch, authors notwithstanding, though I thought Batwoman was doing well.

Earth 2 Vol. 3: War HC

It's a little surprising that DC has this hardcover packed as full as it is -- eight issues plus an annual. James Robinson's last issue is #16, and unless there's a significant cliffhanger between Robinson's #16 and Tom Taylor's #17, I'd think DC would want to start fresh with Taylor in the next trade. I'm not complaining, mind you -- packed hardcover collections are OK with me.

Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine TP

At some point I thought the previous collection, Harrow, was meant to include a little bit of Jeff Lemire's new run on the series, but that's not the case; this fourth collection starts off Lemire's run. Rather surprised to see this didn't switch the other way, over to hardcover.

Green Lantern Vol. 4: Dark Days HC

Very early word that I received on this collection said it would contain all the "Lights Out" crossover parts from all the other titles (and that the other collections would as well, the kind of construction I think some would like to see for the Trinity War collections). This new solicitation, however, says this just contains Green Lantern #21-26, the Annual #2, and the Villains Month issue #23.1: Relic. This means this collection only contains one part of "Lights Out" and you'll have to buy other collections to get the full story, which I imagine won't sit well with some.

Trinity of Sin—Pandora Vol. 1: The Curse TP
Trinity of Sin—The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2: Breach of Faith TP

The first Pandora collection includes issues #1-6, of which #1-3 are Trinity War tie-ins and #6 is a Forever Evil: Blight tie-in; sounds to me like this will be a tough collection to read solely on its own. Even more crazy-making is that the Phantom Stranger collection includes issue #6-11, of which #11 is a Trinity-War tie in; Blight doesn't start for Phantom Stranger until the next trade, in issue #14, so you get one part of Blight in Pandora in February but not the Phantom Stranger parts of Blight until probably much later this year.

Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer? New Edition TP

This is the Batman: Murderer collection that I wish DC would have published the first time around, and I'm glad to finally see it. The book contains Batgirl #24, 27, Batman #599-602, Batman: Gotham Knights #25-28, Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure #1, Birds of Prey #39, 40-41, 43, Detective Comics #766-767, Nightwing #65-66, 68-69, and Robin #98-99; if some eagle-eyed commenter wants to check how this matches with the original collection and let us know, feel free.

Catwoman Vol. 3: Under Pressure TP

At long last, this third volume completes the collections of Ed Brubaker's Catwoman run. Includes issues #25-37, including the War Games tie-in issues, #34-36.

• DC Comics Presents: Harley Quinn #1
Harley Quinn: Welcome To Metropolis TP

I actually didn't think DC was publishing those DC Comics Presents sub-trades any more, but this one includes Harley Quinn's No Man's Land-era origin story, among other things. The trade collects the last of Karl Kesel's issues on his series; sales of this one will probably decide whether DC follows this with a collection of the A. J. Lieberman (Gotham Knights) stories that followed.

Batman ‘66 Vol. 1 HC

Collects issues #1-5, though I'm not sure if that's from the print version of the digital series or straight from digital. At some point I'd heard this series was supposed to have interactive features but I've never seen anything else about it; I'm curious how that will translate to print, if at all.

Smallville Season 11 Vol. 4: Argo TP

Near as I can figure there should be just one more Smallville Season 11 trade after this collecting the "regular" digital series, before this switches over to miniseries. This collects print issues #13-15 and the Special #2; the next should have #16-19.

What will you be picking up in February? Crossover collecting driving you crazy yet?

Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The first volume of Injustice: Gods Among Us is not a poorly told tale, especially as a digital comic translated to print and then newly collected in trade form. It's a story, however, that likely won't be palatable to most outside of ardent fans of the Injustice video game, given how dark and joyless the subject matter is.

The greatest importance of Injustice to those outside the video game realm may instead be that it's written by Tom Taylor, who follows James Robinson's much-acclaimed run on the Earth 2 title. I liked the first Earth 2 collection a lot, and so I take very seriously the question of whether Robinson's replacement will be able to do justice to the title or not. Injustice, as a book about an "alternate" DC Universe with an expansive cast, will be many readers' first indication of how Taylor will handle the other title.

Comic Book Gift Guide 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's that time of the year again for Collected Editions to offer my top trade paperbacks and graphic novel presents for you to give as gifts this holiday season. I think I've got a couple of winners here that'll make you a hit with your loved ones (or that you might want to snag for yourself!).

Of course, there's nothing I like less than using my holiday money on shipping, so once again I've got tips for how you can get three, even four or five books all with free shipping.

Don't miss my 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 lists for more great ideas. Happy gifting!

JSA Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

The JSA Omnibus doesn't come out in time for the holidays, but I thought I'd mention that it's selling right now for almost 40% off. If you've had your eye on it (especially since the contents changed) or need to have a gift for your favorite comics fan in reserve, this is a good opportunity. Geoff Johns's tale of DC's Golden Age heroes training the new generation is some of my favorite of Johns's work.

Pair with anything else on this list -- the JSA Omnibus comes with free shipping, so you can order to your heart's content as long as you have this in your cart.

Amazing Spider-Man (Little Golden Book)

Every year I like to include a couple items on the gift list, not too expensive, that you can use to pad out your order for free shipping, and then you can either give them to a young reader in your life or donate them to charity. This children's Spider-Man book is under $5.00 and written by Frank Berrios (former DC Comics editor), and it'd be a fun introduction to comics for a young reader.

Pair with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Monolith, Black Beetle, or Star Wars: Shadow of Yavin for free shipping.

Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis TP

This might very well be my favorite Superman story (though Superman: Panic in the Sky is no slouch), and certainly with the Superman/Batman movie coming up, now's the time for every comics fan to get this in their collection. This three-part story heralded the beginning of the great Triangle Title days in 1990s Superman comics that also brought us "Death of Superman." A murder brings Batman to Metropolis just as Clark Kent himself is marked for death; it's a great mystery and also makes a landmark change in Superman and Batman's partnership by the end. If you or your favorite comics fan has not read this story, do yourself a favor and pick it up, a steal at under $10.

Pair with the Amazing Spider-Man Golden Book, Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Sonic/Mega Man, and Lazarus, and get five gifts for $35 with free shipping. Or, add something like the Al Jaffee biography or the Fables Encyclopedia and also get free shipping.

Happy! Deluxe HC

I reviewed Grant Morrison's Image comic Happy! back in April, but it's really a Christmas story (of sorts), and Image has a deluxe edition just in time for the holidays, with ten pages of new material. Be warned, however -- I called Happy! a "demented" Christmas story in my review and I meant it. This is Christmas by way of a Quentin Tarantino movie, in which a hardened hitman hunts down a kidnapper in bloody fashion -- while accompanied by a bright blue cartoon horse. If your favorite comics fan takes their holidays a little less seriously, Happy! should make them, well, happy.

Pair with Lazarus (an equally bloody story) and then a book like March, Black Beetle, or Monolith for free shipping.

Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1
Sandman Omnibus Vol. 2

Both volumes of DC Comics/Vertigo's Sandman Omnibus are now available. They're about $100 each, but so pretty! Seriously, between these two books collects all seventy-five issues of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series; there's an Absolute edition out there, but for me, a two-volume omnibus is just more manageable. With Gaimain releasing a new Sandman story right now, this is the perfect time to get these collections for your favorite comics fan -- and think what a hero of the holiday you'll be when they unwrap these! (DC also just announced a Silver Edition of this, for the fan who already has everything else.)

Pair with anything on this list; each book comes with free shipping, so you can use these to secure free shipping for your entire order.

Captain America, Vol. 1: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection TP

The first trailers for Captain America 2: The Winter Solider are hitting the airwaves, and if you don't know it, your favorite comics fan does: the movie is based on a very popular storyline by fan-favorite writer Ed Brubaker. A few years ago Marvel released this Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection, which includes Brubaker's Captain America #1-14. This sizable volume will make a good impression on your favorite comics fan and help them gear up for the flick.

Pair with Happy! and the Amazing Spider-Man Little Golden Book for free shipping on your order.

Black Beetle Vol. 1: No Way Out HC

Many of us fell in love with Francesco Francavilla's pulp artwork in his contributions to Batman: The Black Mirror, and I love seeing his designs on Twitter. Black Beetle started out as a webcomic of sorts on Francavilla's website; Dark Horse eventually picked up the series and now Francavilla is writing and drawing Black Beetle as an ongoing set of miniseries. This first collection has been in my "to read" pile for a week or so now; it collects Dark Horse's Black Beetle #0 and the first four-part story arc, "No Way Out." For the superhero or pulp fan that's mostly stuck with the mainstream, Black Beetle might be something for them to check out.

Pair Black Beetle with Monolith and Lazarus from Image and get your favorite comics fan some great "indie" comics with free shipping.

Al Jaffee's Mad Life: A Biography

This biography of MAD's Al Jaffee came out a couple years ago, but I just stumbled upon it in a bookstore the other day. Anyone who's ever read MAD (or used to read MAD as a kid) knows Jaffee's work, from the MAD "fold-ins" to "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" and plenty of bits in between. Though not a graphic novel, Jaffee illustrates this authorized biography by Mary-Lou Weisman, and it'd make a great companion gift for a long-time comics fan.

Pair with Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis for free shipping, or add Star Wars: Jedi Academy and Sonic/Mega Man to get free shipping and gifts for young and old on your list.

Fables Encyclopedia HC

Bill Willingham has announced that he's bringing Fables to a close with issue #150, so if you're a Fables fan (and who isn't?) or know one, you might start feeling a bit nostalgic. DC Comics/Vertigo has just released the Fables Encyclopedia by writer and comics annotator Jess Nevins, who details the backgrounds of all the mythic and fairytale figures Willingham has used in his Fables saga. If you're in the mind to revisit Fables, this is the way to do it right.

Pair this with Lazarus and the Amazing Spider-Man Golden Book for free shipping; this reference book might also pair well with the Al Jaffee biography, with free shipping.

March Book 1 TP

March is by congressman and civil rights figure John Lewis, and it begins to chronicle Lewis's life journey. The book is nonfiction, black and white, and part of a trilogy, so this is a great gift to get a comics fan who maybe hasn't read so many graphic novel bios, or even for a young adult reader who maybe likes comics a little better than other books, and then you have two more ready-made gifts available when the other parts come out.

Pair with Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis for a one-two superhero-nonfiction action, plus maybe something like Star Wars: Shadow of Yavin or Sonic/Mega Man, Jedi Academy, and the Spider-Man Golden Book for free shipping.

Star Wars Vol. 1: In The Shadow of Yavin TP
Star Wars: Jedi Academy HC

I thought the first collection of Brian Wood's new "classic era" Star Wars series was very good -- not perfect, but a great, faithful attempt at telling new Star Wars stories. I like movie-based Star Wars comics better than the ones set in the far-flung past or future, so Star Wars: In the Shadow of Yavin was just right for me. If you've got a Star Wars fan gearing up for the new movies, there's no question this should be in their collection.

Also out now is Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars: Jedi Academy. Brown is the author of the absolutely precious Star Wars cartoon books Darth Vader and Son and Vader's Little Princess. Jedi Academy is more a storybook/graphic novel than the comic strip humor of the previous books -- think Star Wars meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid, set at an intergalactic middle school.

Pair these two together for a Star Wars fan young and old (or a fan who's young at heart), plus something like the X-Files Season 10 collection for a bunch of media tie-ins and free shipping.

Star Trek: The Stardate Collection, Volume 1

I like collections, obviously, and especially when there's a collection of unusual or unexpected materials, that piques my interest. IDW is about to release their first Star Trek: The Stardate Collection volume, which collects Star Trek comics from all different publishers, in their general "stardate" order. This first collection includes Star Trek: Crew from IDW, which precedes Captain Pike's tenure on the Enterprise (before Kirk's time), Alien Spotlight: Vulcans, also from IDW (a Pike/Spock adventure), and Early Voyages #1-6, a Pike series published by Marvel. I love this idea of trying to bring the disparate series from various publishers into "continuity," and I'm eager to see this collection series continue. A great gift for your favorite Star Trek fan. For fans of the new movies, I'd also recommend the newest volume of IDW's ongoing "new Trek" comic, Star Trek: After Darkness.

Pair with anything on this list. This book qualifies for free shipping on its own, so whatever else you pick up with it will ship free, too.

Lazarus Volume 1 TP

I recently reviewed Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's Lazarus; I'm a fan of Rucka and Lark from their work on Gotham Central, and this new Image series doesn't disappoint. In a post-apocalyptic setting, various "families" negotiate both within and without for power and supplies, buffered by their invincible Lazarus assassins. It's as much an action comic as it is the kind of political procedural that Rucka is known for; this collection includes the first four issues for a very cheap price.

Pair with Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis, Sonic/Mega Man, Star Wars: Jedi Academy, and the Amazing Spider-Man Golden Book to get five gifts for $35 with free shipping. Or, a creator-owned book like Lazarus would pair well with Black Beetle and Monolith, also for free shipping.

Monolith HC

Monolith collects issues from Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's DC Comics series, now re-published by Image. Monolith is one of those books that received critical acclaim but didn't catch on enough to last, and I'm glad to see books like Monolith and Chase getting collections (still holding out for that Peyer/Morales Hourman collection). Though this book is a couple years old, it involves a modern take on the Jewish golem story, making it a perfect Hannukah gift, or simply an introduction to a great overlooked comics series.

Pair with Black Beetle and the Sonic/Mega Man crossover for free shipping, or add to the Al Jaffee biography also for free shipping.

Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 1 TP

Regular Collected Editions writer Doug suggested this collection, which collects the first four parts of the Sonic/Mega Man crossover, with two more books scheduled for next year. Kids will like this one, but as Doug said, he's not even a video gamer and he enjoyed it. If your favorite comics fan is old enough to remember Sonic and Mega Man in their original heyday, this one will be a blast from the past, and makes a great stocking stuffer at less than $10.

Pair with the Spider-Man Golden Book and Star Wars: Jedi Academy for the young readers in your life, plus something like Happy! or Black Beetle and Lazarus to get five books with free shipping.

X-Files Season 10 Volume 1

This has been a good year for media tie-in comics -- Ghostbusters relaunched, there's Smallville Season 11, a Heroes comic is coming, there's Brian Woods's new Star Wars, IDW's Star Trek comic picks up from the movies, and more -- and the one I've been most excited about is X-Files Season 10. Writer Joe Harris gets Chris Carter's blessing for these stories that take place after the second X-Files movie and cameos just about everyone you'd want to see in a new X-Files series. This is in stores in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Pair with Lazarus and Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis for a great trilogy of gifts, or grab X-Files and Happy! plus the Spider-Man Golden Book -- free shipping either way!

If you have more gift suggestions, I'm happy to hear them. Please let us all know in the comments section. (Special thanks to contributor Doug Glassman of Hell Yeah '80s Marvel! for his suggestions.) Collected Editions turned eight this year, and it never could have gone on so long without all the readers who support this site -- thank you, happy holidays, and happy new year!

(Lots of bloggers have affiliate links like the ones above, and when you do your holiday shopping after clicking these links, the blogger gets a few cents. This year, if you're buying gifts online, consider clicking on someone's link before you buy -- when I buy online, I always try to click through a blog before I do. There are lots of hard-working bloggers out there [see blogroll], and this is a great, easy way to support them. Thanks!)

Review: Thor Visionaries: Walt Simonson Vol. 5 trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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

I’ve decided to skip reviewing the fourth volume of Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson for the time being to get to the run’s amazing grand finale in Thor Visionaries Vol. 5.

The majority of that fourth volume is the Balder the Brave mini-series, chronicling the future king of Asgard and his love interest, Karnilla the Norn-Queen, as they fight the Frost Giants. The three issues of The Mighty Thor collected in that book still had a lot going on, including crossing over with the “Mutant Massacre” storyline in the X-Men titles and Volstagg’s adoption of two orphaned human boys, Mick and Kevin, who play crucial roles in Volume 5; they save the day along with Hildy and Kurse, the amnesiac Dark Elf created in Secret Wars II.  These characters have kept a fairly low profile since then, though Thor: The Dark World may change that.

Review: Catwoman Vol. 3: Death of the Family trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ann Nocenti's Catwoman Vol. 3: Death of the Family transforms the series from the gritty crime drama that it was under previous writer Judd Winick to something funnier, more madcap, more akin to Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's Power Girl, for instance. That's not my preference, but I was among the minority enjoying watching Catwoman bite people's ears off, so I guess now the public's got what it wants.

I was not familiar with Nocenti's work prior to the New 52; the franticness found in her Green Arrow Vol. 2: Triple Threat is reflected here, so perhaps that's Nocenti's style. Again, the tone is not for me, though I do have to acknowledge there's something admirable in the frenetic pace Nocenti keeps up in this book from beginning to end. Art and story at times seem to be chasing each other around the page, struggling to stay together, and there's a lot of energy in this book even if it's not how I like my Catwoman.

Review: Justice League of America Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Geoff Johns's new Justice League of America is an entertaining amalgam, but one that defies easy definitions. Previously, Justice League of America was "the" Justice League, and where that title offered iconic action, its spin-offs filled smaller niches -- Justice League International was a humor title, Justice League Europe was more character-driven, Justice League Task Force was at first an espionage team-up book and later, a Teen Titans-esque heroes in training book.

Justice League of America Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous is a bit of all of these, in one. It's far from a "bwah-ha-ha" book, but Johns and especially initial artist David Finch have some amusing sight gags here. The book is ostensibly character-driven, though less so here than I understand it will be in the future; rather, in comparison to Justice League, the America title is a tad sharper, punchier, less grandiose, rather like comparing Superman to Green Arrow. Justice League took six issues to tell its first story, whereas America gets in two missions in the same amount of space.

Review: Young Avengers Vol. 1: Style > Substance trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

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

Many Marvel NOW! titles were designed as fresh starts, but Young Avengers is a necessary exception. Numerous delays in the production of both the original series and the Avengers: Children’s Crusade mini-series have kept the Young Avengers from reaching their full potential. A major reboot would have only made things more confusing, and Kieron Gillen spends little time introducing the characters under the presumption that readers probably already know most of the cast of Young Avengers Vol. 1: Style > Substance.

Even though the history of the Young Avengers doesn’t get fully fleshed out, enough clues are given by their characterizations for the reader to understand that the team is not in a good place. Officially, they’ve disbanded and promised to retire after the deaths of various members in Children’s Crusade. Just about everyone on the team has someone to mourn; this becomes a problem when Wiccan apparently resurrects his boyfriend Hulkling’s dead mother and accidentally summons an interdimensional parasite. Wiccan and Hulkling are the heart of the team in all of its incarnations, and they drive the opening arc as its main characters until the group can fully gel.

Review: Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 04, 2013

There's a lot going on in Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family. It's a thick hardcover, collecting seven issues, an annual, and a short story. It has three writers. It includes a sizable component of the latest Batman crossover and the tertiary "Requiem" event. And it collects the issues during the span of which writer Gail Simone was fired from, and then rehired to, the Batgirl series.

And despite a number of factors that would derail any other book, it's pretty darn near perfect.

Simone's Batgirl is a series that started strong and has just grown stronger, and Death of the Family is the strongest chapter yet. There is blood and danger and horror on every page of this book; as riveting as Scott Snyder's main Death of the Family book was, Simone's "tie in" rivals it page for page.