Review: The Twelve hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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

I don’t think I realized how much I missed JSA until all of the recent talk of the upcoming omnibus brought up old memories. It might be surprising that a Marvel book was able to capture much of what made that classic title work, but J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston’s The Twelve hits all of the right notes. This wasn’t Marvel’s first attempt to ride the popularity of JSA; a variety of Invaders revivals over the last few years have sputtered due to a lack of fan interest. Fans love Captain America and Namor ... but as a team, there’s something lacking, especially since Marvel didn’t really have an equivalent to All-Star Squadron to map out its World War II-era adventures.

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

There's some things I like and some I don't about how DC Comics collects crossovers in the New 52. I don't mind, for instance, that the relevant issues of Teen Titans Vol. 3: Death of the Family are also collected in the Joker book; I read Teen Titans regularly, but if I didn't and I was interested in "Death of the Family," I'd be glad that the Joker book was there.

The flip side of this is that Teen Titans Vol. 3 collects six issues, one of which can be found in Batman Vol. 3 (and a bunch of other places) and two of which can be found in Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3, leaving only three "original" issues for this book (Red Hood, in contrast, offers four original issues not found elsewhere). Even as DC's new collection schema helps casual fans, it sometimes punishes those who read a large part of the line, in my opinion, with repetition and smaller trades.

Review: Superman vs. Shazam! trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

[Guest reviewer Greg Elias writes for Speed Force]

When Superman vs. Shazam! was released, it marked the first reprint of the top-shelf 1978 DC treasury comic of the same name. Whether intended as a video game tie-in or a companion to Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Shazam! hardcover, any excuse for DC to present the balance of Rich Buckler’s Superman/Captain Marvel team-ups is good enough.

The idea of The Man of Steel facing off against The World’s Mightiest Mortal has likely existed since the 1940s, where the two vied for the attention of children at newsstands and drug stores. Without getting into the gory details, DC essentially sued Captain Marvel and Fawcett Publications out of existence in the 1950s and kept the characters in suspended animation, until they acquired their rights in the 1970s.

Review: Guards! Guards! A Discworld Graphic Novel hardcover/paperback (Gollancz)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

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

I planned on reviewing Midnight Nation by J. Michael Straczynski this week, but upon re-reading it, I realized just how gloomy it was. It’s a book that definitely deserves examination ... but I think Easter might be the better time to do so. Instead, let’s take a look at one of the Discworld graphic novels. If you’re unfamiliar with it, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is a series of fantasy books whose primary purpose is to both parody and celebrate the numerous fantasy tropes. Pratchett is a prolific author as well as an extremely brave one; the fortieth Discworld novel is set to come out in 2014 even though he is dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Review: Legends of the Dark Knight: Alan Davis Vol. 1 hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, December 23, 2013

[Review by Michael Updyke, who blogs at Mr. MGU's Certain Point of View]

Unlike most of DC’s other hardcover volumes focusing on a single artist’s Batman work, Legends of the Dark Knight: Alan Davis Vol. 1 actually includes a continuous run of Detective Comics stories (#569-575) with the same creative team, as writer Mike W. Barr and inker Paul Neary join penciller Davis for most of the book.

Barr and Davis’s stories are an entertaining throwback to the “superhero” Batman in the months just preceding (and then briefly concurrent with) the constant Miller-angst that reigns till this day. Batman smiles, cracks jokes, and frequently calls Robin “chum.” Alan Davis’s art is crisp, clean, almost but not quite veering into cartoony. He homages the giant prop Sprang era quite a bit, but he can do grim as well, as seen in one panel where Batman backhands the Joker in a burst of anger.

Review: X-Files Season 10 Vol. 1 hardcover (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Joe Harris's X-Files Season 10 Vol. 1 (not apparently called "Believers" despite that it's the title of the story) is not a perfect book, but it's as good a fictional opener for a new X-Files season as fans might hope. There's nary an aspect of fan service that Harris doesn't run straight in to; while this might make the book somewhat predictable, it's no more or less so than knowing whether that night's episode was a "mythology episode" or not based on the names in the opening credits. If X-Files were coming back, this is what fans would want, and as a fan I'm very eager for Harris's second volume.

[Review contains spoilers]

I read "Believers" just after a re-watch of the second X-Files movie, I Want to Believe. Like the movie, "Believers" takes as its purpose to reintroduce Mulder and Scully, again after an absence (though fans can rest assured "Believers" is far more mythology-driven than I Want to Believe); the darkness finds them again, as the last movie discussed, with Director Skinner showing up at their door instead of FBI agents in need. I Want to Believe had its touchstones, like the pencils collected in Mulder's ceiling; in "Believers," Harris gets in a "Spooky" Mulder reference as quickly as humanly possible. This is, again, fan service, but an X-Files revival comic ought have no higher purpose than nostalgia anyway, so what might seem blatant is at the same time effectively cute.

Review: Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 1: Kindred Spirits trade paperback (Archie Comics)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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

In an alternate universe where I grew up playing video games instead of collecting action figures, I would probably be doing reviews of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic instead of IDW’s Transformers titles. Archie has been publishing their Sonic comic for an astonishing twenty years -- their longest-running franchise outside of the actual Riverdale books. As a result, it has a complex continuity of its own far removed (and often better) than the various video games. Archie’s Mega Man series is “only” about three years old by comparison, and as a result, it’s closer to what you might remember from the video games and old cartoon show. The two series recently came together in a twelve-part story, the first four chapters of which are collected in Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 1: Kindred Spirits.

DC Trade Solicitations for March 2014 - All-Star Batman and Robin, Batman: Zero Year, Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell, Batman: Carmine Infantino

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Big news this month in DC Comics's March 2014 trade paperback and collections solicitations seems to be what is, or isn't, coming up in Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All-Star Batman and Robin, given the solicitation of an Absolute volume that collects the unfinished series.

Before we dive into it, however, one Cancelled Comics Cavalcade note: DC has apparently cancelled orders for the Katana collection by Ann Nocenti, promising to resolicit the trade. This isn't the first time DC has cancelled and resolicited a New 52 trade (the second volume of Deathstroke and Savage Hawkman are examples), but it is curious since there's nothing to add to the book; it was already supposed to collect the whole series, issues #1-10, plus the Villains Month Justice League Dark 23.1: Creeper issue. Might the resolicit contain less (like, not the Creeper issue) and not more?

And now the solicitations:

Absolute All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder HC

I never read All-Star Batman and Robin the first time around and I don't have an interest in reading it now, so the fact that the solicitation for the Absolute edition offers issue #1-9 -- essentially promising that the book's final issue, #10, will never see light of day -- doesn't bother me all that much. But if you bought nine issues of this series, especially if it was ever offered to you as a ten-issue miniseries -- and especially given that half of the creative team is a high-ranking executive with DC Comics -- I can understand why you might be miffed.

It also seems a little callous to be releasing an Absolute edition of an unfinished series without some official statement as to whether yes, this series will one day be finished or no, we just have to cut our losses. If for some reason DC and the creators can't get this series done, I think we'd all understand that stuff happens; the problem in my opinion is that there's simply been no statement, and instead an Absolute solicitation that glosses over the inherit problems and therefore comes off looking blithe.

JSA Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

On the other end of the spectrum, the long-awaited JSA Omnibus now has a release date, May 14, 2014. This also marks a triumph of you, the reader, who made your voices heard when this collection was going to start with issue #6, and now it'll start with issue #1 (and the Justice Society Returns prequel miniseries). If you spoke up again, could you make new All-Star Batman and Robin appear? ... Probably not, but I still always encourage voting with your wallet.

Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year–Secret City HC

The fourth collection of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman run includes issues #21-24, skipping over issues #18-20. Many of you have asked, and yes, I do think DC will collect these issues eventually, probably after all the Zero Year collections.

Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King HC

Aquaman Vol. 4 picks up from the controversial Vol. 3, which only collected issues #0 and #14-16, all but one of which was collected in Justice League Vol. 3 (Update: the constant changes to the Aquaman Vol. 3 contents remain confusing; I'm told the Aquaman Vol. 3 trade had two issues not found elsewhere). In another decision that will please no one, Vol. 4 collects issues #17-19 and #21-25, making it a hefty eight-issue trade but skipping #20, a fill-in issue by John Ostrander. Whereas I do think we'll see Scott Snyder's Batman #18-20 collected somewhere, I'm less enthusiastic about Aquaman #20's chances. It is enough to make me consider just going digital with this series.

Batgirl Vol. 4: Wanted HC

Gail Simone's Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family offered some really gripping storytelling, and I'm very excited for this fourth volume. Includes Batgirl #19-25 and the Villains Month issue Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: Ventriloquist. An eight-issue Batgirl collection is a nice take in my opinion.

The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires Vol. 1 – Money and Power TP

Collects the entirety of Art Baltazar and Franco's Green Team. Not sure the tie to the ongoing DC Universe was ever quite enough for me to pick this one up right away, unless someone knows otherwise.

Suicide Squad Vol. 4: Discipline and Punish TP

I have been enjoying Matt Kindt's head-trip Mind MGMT very much, and so I'm eagerly anticipating his bringing that spy-thriller vibe to Suicide Squad. Kindt's contribution to this volume is only the Villains Month Justice League of America #7.1: Deadshot and Detective Comics #23.1: Harley Quinn (along with Ales Kot's issues #20-23); more of an appetizer, really, but one I'm looking forward to.

Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell HC

The long-rumored Paul Dini/Joe Quinones graphic novel also now has a release date, May 21, 2014. You all should read and enjoy this, sure, but my shameful comics secret is that I've never been on the Paul Dini/Zatanna hyper-bandwagon, really; I thought Dini did a nice job with Zatanna and Batman in some recent issues (not so recent any more) issues of Detective Comics, but the graphic novel lovefest isn't for me. If anything, it'll be a trip to see the pre-Flashpoint Black Canary again.

Deadman Book Five TP

I've mostly passed over these classic Deadman collections, but the fact that this one collects the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths 1986 Deadman miniseries piqued my interest -- could it be DC Timeline fodder?

From what I can tell, the contents of this one are a little strange; it collects Challengers of the Unknown #85-87, a time-traveling Deadman story from 1978, and then the Deadman miniseries and Secret Origins issue which are related, but follow from Brave and the Bold #86, collected back in Deadman Book Two. Chalk it up to Crisis, but maybe this would be a better read without the Challengers issue and with another more modern story alongside the 1980s bits, like the Spectre or Action Comics Weekly issues.

Final Crisis (New Edition) TP

This newest "new edition" of Final Crisis now includes the new pages from Absolute Final Crisis, plus everything that was in the original book and the two Batman issues.

Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire HC
Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo TP

I reviewed the two-volume set of Denise Mina's adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and liked it, though I thought splitting it into two volumes hurt the story as a whole. Therefore I'm glad to see DC/Vertigo releasing The Girl Who Played with Fire as one single volume, and also the paperback edition of Tattoo will contain the first two volumes in one. Whether this better allowed Mina to not have to artificially split the story, or whether the script was done before the final format was decided, I don't know.

DC Universe vs. the Masters of the Universe TP

This series has been critically panned, but I might just check it out in digital anyway; surely there must be some enjoyment to be found in He-Man and Superman on the same page. Collects the six issue miniseries, plus the classic DC Comics Presents issue that first teamed He-Man and Superman.

• Superman/Batman Vol. 1 TP

As they well should, DC's quest to reprint everything Superman/Batman ahead of the new movie continues with this paperback of issues #1-13, originally published as the "Public Enemies" and "Supergirl" storylines. This is essentially the contents of the recent Absolute edition, now in paperback.

Personally I'd love to see a Superman/Batman omnibus that collected the entire series, for better and for worse, including some of the self-contained stories by rotating teams toward the end.

Tales of the Batman: Carmine Infantino HC

Alongside a number of classic Carmine Infantino Batman stories, I think it's cool that DC is including the story Geoff Johns wrote and Infantino drew in tribute to Julius Schwartz in 2004.

That's what jumped out at me. In our last solicitations run-down of 2013, what's on your buying list?

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

Unfortunately the New 52 Nightwing series still fails to live up to the promise of the first volume, though there's always next time. Nightwing Vol. 3: Death of the Family, while drawn well specifically by artist Eddie Barrows, seems six issues really only in service of one or two big moments, with lots of filler in between. Writer Kyle Higgins offers another great cliffhanger that's likely to bring me back for the fourth volume even though the second and third didn't impress, though that's a trick I'm only likely to fall for so many times.

[Review contains spoilers]

The six issues in this collection (plus the mostly-generic Young Romance short) make up three stories: Nightwing vs. Lady Shiva, by guest-writer Tom DeFalco and artist Andres Guinaldo; the "Death of the Family" tie-in, by Higgins and Barrows, and then an epilogue and "Requiem" tie-in by Higgins and Juan Jose Ryp. The book's strongest story, not surprisingly, is by the title's regular team, though this volume marks Barrows's final issues in the series.

Review: Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men Vol. 2: The Firstorm Protocols trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Given the rocky road that the DC Comics New 52 Firestorm title has had, I wasn't expecting much from Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men Vol. 2: The Firestorm Protocols, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. Writer Joe Harris arrives, replacing Gail Simone as writer/artist Ethan Van Sciver's co-plotter, and the overall story improves. Rather than focusing on high schoolers fighting an evil corporation, a la Teen Titans, this latest book is all about "legitimate" Firestorms hunting "rogue" Firestorms, a more engaging and mature story.

There's also an interesting structure to this book, in which Harris creates a solid mission and supporting cast for Firestorm and then proceeds to essentially wipe the slate clean in preparation for Dan Jurgens's run that follows.

Review: Incredible Change-Bots Two graphic novel (Top Shelf Productions)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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

Since the 2007 publication of the original Incredible Change-Bots, the star of graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown has risen tremendously. His adorable Star Wars tie-in books, such as Darth Vader and Son, might end up serving as a gateway for new young fans to get into graphic novels. His take on the Transformers franchise is a bit less reverent than his Star Wars books, but that’s fine by me, because there’s more than enough material in my favorite franchise to be spoofed. Brown followed the first volume with Incredible Change-Bots Two a few years ago.

Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Death of the Family trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 09, 2013

Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Death of the Family is a very Jason Todd-centered trade, and since Jason is the strongest part of writer Scott Lobdell's Red Hood series, that's a good thing. Though Lobdell is still in origin-telling mode (after last volume's spotlight on Starfire), the twist he offers on Jason's origin is good enough -- and told so cleverly -- as to make it wholly worthwhile. Alongside Batgirl and Batman and Robin, this is a "Death of the Family" tie-in that distinguishes itself well, and it's a shame that one of this title's strongest volumes should be Lobdell's last on the series.

[Review contains spoilers]

Lobdell's biggest bombshell comes in the middle of the very first chapter, the Zero Month issue: that the Joker specifically manipulated events so that Jason Todd would become Robin, and so that the Joker could kill him. It's a claim almost too preposterous to believe, even for comics, but Lobdell backs himself up well with a kind of cracked mirror story that shows events first from Jason's perspective, and then from the Joker's. That's clever enough to sell it, but it also adds a brilliant level to Jason going forward in that he's the figurative "son" now of both Batman and the Joker (not unlike the pre-Flashpoint Kon-El taking DNA from both Superman and Lex Luthor). What Lobdell has not yet revealed is why Jason chose the Red Hood moniker (I'm not sure if anyone has touched on this, including Judd Winick's original Under the Hood), but the fact that Jason "owes his life" to the Joker gives the Red Hood choice additional meaning.

Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 2: The Starfire trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Scott Lobdell's Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 2: The Starfire demonstrates the versatility of this title in a way that ought to suggest good things going forward. But Lobdell tells a familiar story, and despite a welcome tweak here and there, the book remains mostly predictable.

[Review contains spoilers]

The last volume of Red Hood saw the team take on undead ninjas and giant monsters; the story was not "earthbound" in the "fighting crime in Gotham City" sense, but neither was it too far afield from what one might normally find among the Bat-titles. Starfire begins with the Red Hood versus mobsters, then a "Night of the Owls" crossover, then a four-part trip to space, and then a run-in with Superman. None of these stories feel out of place for the characters, and in this way Lobdell demonstrates the breadth of stories this series can tell. This genre-bridging is not something that could be comfortably done with another Bat-book like Batgirl or Batwing.

Review: Transformers: Robots in Disguise Vol. 4 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

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

When I did the first “Transgiving” last year, I distinctly remember wondering how the then-newly begun arc of Robots In Disguise would fare in its review. Much like last week’s review of More Than Meets The Eye Vol. 4, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Vol. 4 is the culmination of over a year’s worth of issues, but it feels like it’s been far longer. Much of this is because at least two issues -- the “Syndromica” stories -- really should have been published as one-shots or their own miniseries. Even if you count issue #12 which opens this book as issue #10 of the “real” plotline, there’s still something off about the pacing.

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

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Monday, December 02, 2013

Once again, while I adored the first volume of Peter Tomasi's Batman and Robin, I found the second volume scattered and lacking. Batman and Robin Vol. 3: Death of the Family is a better story, though it's hampered by being an especially short trade -- just three regular issues and an annual, discounting that Batman #17 that keeps showing up everywhere and that I'm skipping by this point.

[Review contains spoilers]

By virtue of the first Batman and Robin collection being eight issues, that placed both the "Night of the Owls" crossover and the lead-in to "Death of the Family" in volume two, whereas most Bat-books only handled "Owls" in volume two and saved all of "Death" for volume three. Batman and Robin's proper two-part "Death of the Family" tie-in is collected here, but by virtue of goings on in Batman Inc. Vol. 2, the book cuts off after the one-off issue #17, before the book changes in issue #18.