Review: Captain Atom Vol. 2: Genesis trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

If there's a series that lends itself to "binge reading," it's JT Krul and Freddie Williams's Captain Atom. In the first volume I liked their new Nathaniel Adam but found the book directionless; the second volume, however, Captain Atom Vol. 2: Genesis, not only tops the original in weird science, but also applies a significant amount of direction to the seemingly disparate elements of the first, redeeming the series as a whole.

This is a book that doesn't work if you just read one issue or one trade, but that works immeasurably well once you've let a dozen issues go past (I feel similarly about Matt Kindt's Mind MGMT). More's the pity that there was no way to read it like this from the outset; here's a cancelled book that left me hungry to know what happened next.

Review: Spider-Man and Fantastic Four hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

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

There are a variety of projects featuring team-ups between Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, from the very first issue of What If? back in the 1960s to the Silver Rage mini-series, to say nothing of Spidey’s Future Foundation tenure. Christos Gage and Mario Alberti’s Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four stands out as an interlocking companion piece to Spider-Man and the Human Torch. You might recognize the names and art style; this mini-series functions as a sequel of sorts to the enjoyable X-Men and Spider-Man.

Most of Spider-Man and the Human Torch covered the early years of Spider-Man with a small jump to the 1980s and a huge jump to the 2000s. The first issue of Spidey/Four takes place between issues one and two of Spidey/Torch while Peter is still in college. This issue also focuses on Spidey’s relationship with the Human Torch and features Doctor Doom in the villain role. It feels like a Spidey/Torch rehash at first, but it quickly goes in a much different direction. By this time, Spidey and the Torch were friends, but the Fantastic Four were a little more skeptical. This issue allows Spidey to build bonds with Reed, Sue, and Ben while working around a zany mind-switching plot.

Review: Supergirl Vol. 2: Girl in the World trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 27, 2014

When I read the first volume of Michael Green and Mike Johnson's New 52 Supergirl, I was impressed with the balance the two struck between an edgier Supergirl suitable for modern audiences and still creating a likable character that authentically evokes Supergirl in her many incarnations. Supergirl Vol. 2: Girl in the World toes this line even better, preserving Supergirl's alien-ness while at the same time giving her a darling supporting cast and some human interaction. Plotting here could still use some work, but fans of Sterling Gates's recent stellar run on Supergirl should find themselves comfortable here, too.

[Review contains spoilers]

The first volume of this book mainly involved Supergirl being Supergirl -- fighting government soldiers, fighting Superman, fighting alien conquerors. As such, the dynamic of the book instantly changes when Supergirl meets "Irish punk rocker" Siobhan Smythe, who speaks Kryptonian by dint of magical powers and becomes Supergirl's guide to Earth. This Kara Zor-El doesn't have a secret identity per se, but Siobhan gets her into "people clothes," out to a music club, and eventually on a date. Green and Johnson's use of Siobhan is inspired -- one step removed in that she can't understand most people and most people can't understand her, but she can understand Siobhan, and it humanizes this most alien of Supergirls without lessening her aloofness.

DC Trade Solicitations for April 2014 - Spectre, Joker's Daughter, Green Lantern: Lights Out, Super Friends

Friday, January 24, 2014

Not a lot of books in DC Comics's April 2014 trade paperback and collections solicitations; I think most of the attention this month was on the cancellation of the Nightwing, Superman Unchained, and etc. titles. Still there's definitely some notable books here, including my personal favorite, a new collection of John Ostrander's Spectre series. Let's dig in:

Spectre Vol. 1: Crimes and Judgments TP

If you buy only one trade paperback this month, let this be it. Spectre: Crimes and Judgments marks the first collection of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake's dynamic, spooky Spectre series since the 1993 Crimes and Punishments trade (which I reviewed in 2011) that collected just the first four issues of the series. This new volume, collecting issues #1-12, is not only a great read, but also a canary in the coal mine, I believe -- good sales of this volume must necessarily help DC determine whether there will be future volumes, how they might treat the Ostrander/Mandrake Martian Manhunter collections starting next month (and vice versa), and whether we might ever see more collections of Ostrander's other works, namely Suicide Squad. If you're on the fence, I recommend snapping this one up.

Batman: Arkham Asylum – Living Hell Deluxe Edition HC

I passed over the Arkham Asylum: Living Hell miniseries when it first came out since one-off, unrelated tales of Batman villains aren't necessarily my thing, though the story was later brought into (the old) continuity in Batman: Face the Face. No question why DC would want to release a deluxe edition of this now, however, with art by Ryan Sook and story by Dan "Superior Spider-Man" Slott; probably a surprise a new edition of this didn't come out earlier.

Batman/Deathblow: After The Fire TP

I recently read about the New 52 Deathblow in the pages of Rob Liefeld's Grifter Vol. 2 and it's hard not to think of the character as something of a too-1990s joke, but apparently he had the gumption once upon a time to deserve a three-issue miniseries written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Lee Bermejo, and sharing the billing with Batman. If anyone knows why I might have misjudged Deathblow, please speak up.

All-Star Western Vol. 4: Gold Standard TP

This collection of issues #17-21 begins -- SPOILERS ON -- the storyline in which Booster Gold brings Jonah Hex to the future. I have only been an occasional reader of this series, though seeing Hex in the modern era intrigued me (I'll probably pick this up for Booster's presence alone), but the fact that Hex seems to have returned to the past now and Booster's appearance didn't seem to have any far-reaching consequences all dampen my excitement.

Batman and Robin Vol. 4: Requiem For Damian HC

Seems the answer to "how will the Batman and Robin collections handle this series's ever-changing title" is, at least for the moment, to remain Batman and Robin. If you want to draw your own conclusions what that says for the future of this title, feel free. I'm just glad Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are still rocking and rolling on this title (perhaps my favorite writer/artist mash-up); looking forward to this one.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4 – The Wrath HC

My shameful secret of the day is that I still have not read a single issue of Chew by John Layman, but I'll get there one day, I promise. In the meantime, Detective Comics's relative unimportance among the Bat-titles has moved it toward the bottom of my reading list despite Layman's presence, though I'll probably pick up this and Vol. 3: Emperor Penguin sooner or later; I'm interested to read the "issue #900 celebration" story collected here, if nothing else.

Catwoman Vol. 4: Gotham Underground TP

New readers may not remember Frank Tieri's Gotham Underground mini-series from a couple years back; not a bad story necessarily, but it was meant to tie into Salvation Run, which was itself meant to tie in to Countdown to Final Crisis, all of which essentially fell apart. So because of the bad connotations, I'd personally hesitate before I called a new title "Gotham Underground," but that's just me.

Catwoman is another one that's fallen toward the bottom of my reading list, again because it really doesn't forward the overall Bat-story and also because Ann Nocenti's writing style hasn't quite worked for me yet. At the same time, this is the trade that introduces the popular Joker's Daughter character (I'm not sure if this character is popular because of her intrinsic worth or due to having "Joker" in the name right after Death of the Family and some short printing of the Villains Month issue causing undue speculation), so I'll probably check it out at some point to be "in the know." Includes said Villains Month issue, naturally, but excludes issue #25, a Zero Year issue by Layman (hopefully to be collected in some sort of Zero Year tie-ins collection).

Green Lantern: Lights Out HC

The latest multi-title crossover collection, the issues of which (depending on your source) can also be found in the individual Green Lantern, Corps, New Guardians, and Red Lanterns titles. Includes the Villains Month Relic issue, but then again so does Green Lantern Vol. 4: Dark Days.

Movement Vol. 1: Class Warfare TP

I've not read an issue of Gail Simone's The Movement and I don't mean to pre-judge (obviously I like Simone's work in general), but from what I understand the series isn't selling well, and Green Team, launched at the same time, has already been canceled. All of which is to say that, though this volume collects issues #1-8, I wouldn't be surprised if the volume was re-solicited to include issues #1-12, let's say.

Red Lanterns Vol. 4: Blood Brothers TP

Surprisingly, Red Lanterns Vol. 4 -- the "Lights Out" tie-in volume -- also includes Green Lantern Annual #2 (the "Lights Out" conclusion), the same as Green Lantern Vol. 4 and the Green Lantern: Lights Out collection. I guess this is good if you're not reading the other Green Lantern titles, as it gives you an end to the story whereas the individual tie-in volumes to Trinity War, H'el on Earth, Culling, etc. just included whichever of the series' issues tied-in, reading experience notwithstanding. At the same time, like the Death of the Family collections, at some point when you've had Batman #17 in four different collections, you start to get tired of encountering it (and further, I think said conclusion begins to lose some of its impact).

Showcase Presents: Super Friends Vol. 1 TP

Last but not least, someone with a better memory than mine can say for sure, but I believe this Showcase Presents book was solicited and then canceled for resolicitation back in 2009, and now here it is five years later. To be resolicited, indeed!

That's what I'm reading. But hey, what are you reading?

Review: Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man Vol. 3: Takeover trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

DC Comics accomplishes an interesting pivot with Fury of Firestorm Vol. 3: Takeover. Whereas at the start of the New 52 Firestorm was a global espionage book with a perhaps-limitless cast of "Firestorms," this third book in a logical and story-plausible way re-imagines Firestorm closer to his original sense, a teenager with a voice inside his head learning to yield almost limitless power. As such, Vol. 3 serves as an indication how the New 52 can grow and change without another Flashpoint; rather, there are in-book ways to tell a variety of stories about these characters (I believe something of the same is happening over in the Superboy title).

There is unquestionably something quite charming about the classic "young hero" iteration of Firestorm, and this third volume by Dan Jurgens is about the most faithful portrayal of Firestorm we've seen in a long time. With no disrespect to Jason Rusch's adventures (I'd have preferred to see Jason in charge here and not Ronnie Raymond), I'm not sure the look of the most recent pre-Flashpoint Firestorm ever quite said "Super Powers Firestorm" to me (and that's costume, not race); Jurgens, however, draws Firestorm in a very "old school" style that feels like coming home. Jurgens's Firestorm fills well the hole left by the cancellations of Static Shock and Blue Beetle for a "teen hero learning the ropes on his own" book in the New 52 -- only unfortunately Firestorm is cancelled after this book, too.

Review: Spider-Man/Human Torch hardcover (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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

“... and while he's currently dead, I think he'll return soon enough.”

Seven years ago, in my very first review for this site, I made the above statement about Genis-Vell, who had died just recently in the pages of New Thunderbolts. I think I could use the same words to describe how I felt about the “deaths” of Peter Parker and Johnny Storm over the last few years.

So long as there’s money to be made and stories to be told, superheroes, especially those of the caliber of Spider-Man and the Human Torch, will never be killed off for real. Even the authors and the publishers know this; many of these “death” stories are less about losing the character and more about guessing how they’ll be brought back. Let’s celebrate the imminent return of the Amazing Spider-Man with some of Dan Slott’s earliest work on the character, Spider-Man and the Human Torch.

Review: Smallville Season 11 Vol. 1: Guardian trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's been a good season for media tie-in comics of late, between Brian Woods's "New Hope" Star Wars continuation, Joe Harris's X-Files Season 10, the rumored Heroes comic, and especially the digital Smallville Season 11 series, of which the first collection of the paper reprints is The Guardian.

Writer Bryan Q. Miller, with artist Pere Perez, writes the new "season" of a television show that fundamentally changed with its finale. Whereas Harris can relatively easily plug Mulder and Scully back into their old roles, Miller must take ten seasons of Smallville and extrapolate from them what kind of Superman Tom Welling's Clark Kent would be, without any direct on-screen cues to indicate how to do so.

Review: Grifter Vol. 2: Newfound Power trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I don't imagine many readers picked up Grifter Vol. 2: Newfound Power. It is, after all, a not-very-well-received series about a 1990s character with a strong 1990s aesthetic, and this volume is scripted by controversial creator Rob Liefeld, to boot.

I picked it up for the following reasons: I like that the Wildstorm characters are now part of the DC Universe, and aside from the Authority (which was never quite "Wildstorm" to me anyway), Grifter is to me the most recognizable and symbolic character that came out of Wildstorm; I bought volume one, and it's pretty much a lock that if a series has two volumes and I already bought volume one, I'll probably buy volume two; I think the "Daemonite invasion" storyline in the New 52 was pretty cool on paper, even if it fell apart in practice; and related, Grifter Vol. 2 presumably ties in to various other books I'm reading, most notably Superman but then also Voodoo (the second volume of which I bought for much the same reasons as the above).

Review: Deadpool Vol. 2: Soul Hunter trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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

I’m happy to say that the current Deadpool title has continued to improve. One of my main concerns about that first volume was a weak supporting cast. The ghost of Ben Franklin still has little to do, but in Deadpool Vol. 2: Soul Hunter, both Michael the Mage and Agent Emily Preston get significant character development, making them better foils for Wade Wilson. While the main plot still takes six issues, a clever use of setting up the villain in past makes it feel like less of a stretch, and interesting subplots make the endeavor feel worthwhile. Mike Hawthorne ably takes over the main art duties from Tony Moore without any major shift in the quality or style.

Review: Talon Vol. 1: Scourge of the Owls trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, January 13, 2014

I admit I was skeptical that a title about an entirely new, tertiary Bat-character, and one that seemed published mainly to piggy-back on the "Night of the Owls" craze, would be all that interesting, even if written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion. Talon Vol. 1: Scourge of the Owls, however, is an exceptional debut for the titular Calvin Rose, an interesting comic with a great supporting cast and plenty of twists and turns. Talon is, as we know, cancelled after the next collection, but the first volume is exceptional and worthy of being picked up despite this title's finitude.

Review: Superman Vol. 3: Fury at World's End hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Scott Lobdell's first full foray into Superman is imperfect, but there are enough achievements alongside the stumbles in Superman Vol. 3: Fury at World's End to make me optimistic that this book will get better as it goes. By no accounts is the character of Lobdell's Superman the same as the character of John Byrne's Superman, or Dan Jurgens's, or Jeph Loeb's (nor any of Superman's multimedia iterations), nor should it be; rather, love or hate the New 52, it's hard to argue that Lobdell's Superman isn't exactly the Superman that the New 52 calls for.

[Review contains spoilers]

Fury at World's End reveals two somewhat contrary elements inherent in Lobdell's depiction of Superman, which pushed and pulled at my reaction to this book. On one hand, Lobdell's Superman Clark Kent could be easily rejected as being "objectionably flip" in the vein of J. Michael Straczynski's Earth One Superman. This is a Superman who wishes he didn't have to have a day job, who melodramatically quits his job at the Daily Planet, who snoops on Lois Lane's text messages, and who at one point rather blithely puts Superboy in harm's way.

Review: Daredevil Vol. 3 by Mark Waid hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

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

The third trade of the current incarnation of Daredevil wastes no time in introducing its core narrative. Upping the ante from the previous volume, not only does Spider-Man return, but the Punisher becomes the third component of the “Omega Effect” crossover. One of the central ideas of this run is that Daredevil is in possession of the Omega Drive, a database containing the financial information of numerous villainous groups. It’s built from a Fantastic Four costume and is thus made of unstable molecules, making the information on it both vast and very hard to destroy. Spider-Man wants Daredevil to hand it over to the Avengers for safe-keeping; the Punisher wants it to get ahead of his enemies for an easier slaughter.

Review: Flash Vol. 2: Rogues Revolution hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, January 06, 2014

There's some interesting concepts -- and perfectly workable revised origins for some major villains -- in Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato's Flash Vol. 2: Rogues Revolution. Unfortunately, for a couple of reasons this is a less impressive follow-up to their stellar New 52 debut; also, no matter what new ideas the authors bring, they're still treading on well-worn and hallowed ground, making it difficult for their stories to measure up.

[Review contains spoilers]

Manapul and Buccellato already demonstrated a talent for unusual storytelling in Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward, in which the reader learns an explosion early in the book is actually the time-displaced result of the characters' actions later on. In Rogues, the audience understands there's a conspiracy afoot only after they've seen the results of that conspiracy -- that the Flash's supposed friend Dr. Elias is actually working with the Rogues and is responsible for the bizarre changes that we've already seen the Rogues undergo.

Review: Batman, Inc. Vol. 2: Gotham's Most Wanted hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Finales are hard, I think we can all agree. Spitballing a little bit, 52 comes to mind as a series with a good ending, and Infinite Crisis. James Robinson's Starman is another good ending; Bryan Q. Miller brought his Batgirl run to a pretty good close just before the New 52. At the same time I recall two superlative Flash runs, Mark Waid's and Geoff Johns's, each ending less strongly than they began, and most recently I thought Johns's end to his Green Lantern run hit some of the high notes, but not all of them.

Grant Morrison has been writing his Batman saga almost non-stop for seven years, since just after Infinite Crisis to almost three years into the New 52. I have loved many parts of this story, felt I came to understand Morrison as a writer through these books and in that way gained insight into his other works, and rarely have I not been entertained. If one read solely Morrison's issues in his Bat-saga, and not the glut of ancillary and tie-in books that have gone along with it, Morrison's conclusion, Batman Inc. Vol. 2: Gotham's Most Wanted might be mostly satisfactory (though in the end I think it still violates one of the basic tenets of Morrison's Batman stories).