Review: Quantum and Woody Vol. 1: The World's Worst Superhero Team trade paperback (Valiant Entertainment)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

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

After Valiant Comics was bought out and became Acclaim Comics, very few of its new concepts received much attention ... except for Quantum and Woody, created by industry veterans Christopher Priest and Mark Bright. The tale of two mismatched adopted siblings who must make contact every twenty-four hours to keep their powers was an anarchic ride beloved by many readers. The recent relaunch of the title was one of Valiant Entertainment’s very few gaffes -- namely, it was perceived by fans that Valiant shouldn’t technically own Quantum and Woody and the rights should have returned to Priest and Bright. To their credit, Valiant ironed out the details immediately, allowing the original creators to put together their own upcoming mini-series while going ahead with the issues collected in Quantum and Woody Vol. 1: The World’s Worst Superhero Team.

Review: Ravagers Vol. 2: Heavenly Destruction trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 28, 2014

New series writer Michael Alan Nelson joins for this final volume, replacing, for most of the book, original writer Howard Mackie. Though Ravagers Vol. 2: Heavenly Destruction isn't tonally different from the first volume, it's obvious a new writer has come on in the not-so-subtle shift of series villains Rose Wilson (nee Ravager in the old continuity) and Warblade (formerly of Wildstorm) to the side of angels.

Ordinarily I might balk at a new writer joining a series and changing things, but given that Rose and Warblade both have heroic tendencies in other continuities, Nelson's changes have precedent. Ravagers as a whole was never great nor quite distinguished itself, but Nelson's volume (the last of the series) is enjoyable enough; in this gradual coming together of the former "Colony"'s heroes and villains, Nelson gives a sense where this title could have gone had it lasted a little longer.

DC Trade Solicitations for July 2014 - Forever Evil and Justice League tie-ins, Blight, Absolute Batman, Inc. Flash Omnibus, Katana, Captain Carrot

Friday, April 25, 2014

There's a theme to DC Comics's July trade paperback and collections solicitations, and that theme is "Forever Evil." In August and September, we'll see the main Forever Evil hardcover, plus the Justice League, America, and Dark tie-ins, with even a little "Blight" on the side.

The collections schema isn't going to please everyone here, but when Forever Evil #7 is a month late and a dollar more expensive, trade-waiting looks more and more attractive ...

Forever Evil HC
Justice League Vol. 5: Forever Heroes HC
Justice League of America Vol. 2: Survivors of Evil HC

The Justice League Vol. 5 collection includes issues #24-29, which is the entirety of the title's Forever Evil tie-in; issue #30 begins the team's new status quo. Ditto the Justice League of America trade collects that title's entire Forever Evil tie-in, issues #8-13, plus the book's final issue (before Justice League Unlimited), issue #14.

How many different variations of "forever" and "evil" can they use in trade names? Don't know if that's "better" or "worse" than just calling each trade Title: Forever Evil, a la "Death of the Family" ...

Justice League Dark Vol. 4: The Rebirth of Evil TP

Justice League Dark is still on volume 4 while Justice League has moved on to volume 5 (blame some short Justice League collections and some long Justice League Dark ones), but the good news is that this collection includes both the Trinity War and the Forever Evil tie-in issues, so the Justice League and Dark collections are essentially in the same place. One piece of bad news is that this collection comes out a month before the Forever Evil collection, which might make for some out-of-order reading; the other bad news is that this book contains parts 1, 2, 6, 10, 14, and 18 of the "Forever Evil: Blight" storyline. Someone who's reading it can tell me if you can read the Dark issues on their own, but for Trinity War you couldn't.

Constantine Vol. 2: Blight TP

Here, too, we have parts 4, 8, 12, and 16 of "Forever Evil: Blight"; up in the air whether this is going to be readable or not.

Absolute Batman, Incorporated HC

Collects the entire Batman, Incorporated saga, including the first and second series, Leviathan Rises, and the finale special. Someone asked a good question on Dan DiDio's Facebook page the other day that given that we have an Absolute Batman & Robin and an Absolute Batman, Inc., isn't the first half of the story also due for an Absolute? At least Batman and Son and Batman RIP, right?

Hopefully there will be some scans of the new Chris Burnham art online, with comparison shots of the original pages. I'm curious.

• DC Comics Presents: Batman Adventures #1

Collected Batman Adventures #2 and #27, Batman: Gotham Adventures #2 and #4, and a story from  Adventures in the DC Universe #3. These are, respectively, a Catwoman story, one where Batman investigates his doppelganger, a Two-Face story, another Catwoman story, and a Poison Ivy story. The solicits says Joker is in there, too (but you have to provide your own Mark Hamill voice); your guess is as good as mine.

Flash Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

For the Flash fans out there, this collects Showcase #4 and #8 and Flash #105-132 (when the new Flash series took up the numbering from the Golden Age comic), from the 1950s-1960s. A collection of the Mark Waid era would be more my "speed," but to each their own.

Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 4: Gods and Monsters TP

Admittedly I've looked away from DC's Green Lantern titles after Geoff Johns's run ended; matter of fact, I read all the parts of "Rise of the Third Army," but I had to remind myself just now whether I read all of "Wrath of the First Lantern" or just the Green Lantern parts, and the answer is just the Green Lantern parts. Probably in a couple months you'll see a bunch of Green Lantern title reviews here as I catch up and then catch up again with the new teams. This is the first post-"Wrath" Green Lantern: New Guardians trade, issues #21-27, but no rest for the weary because issue #24 here is part of the "Lights Out" crossover, and also included is the finale of that crossover, the Green Lantern Annual #2.

Katana Vol. 1: Soultaker TP

Resolicted finally is the Katana: Soultaker collection, now including issues #1-10 (instead of #1-6) and the Justice League Dark: Creeper Villains Month issue. I'm up for this one mainly because of the ties to Jeff Lemire's Green Arrow series.

Showcase Presents: Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew TP

Captain Carrot really isn't my thing, but as long as they were printing a big collection, it's probably a shame the newest miniseries wasn't in here, too. Think a Captain Carrot Omnibus would sell?

If I'm recalling right, this is the last of the once-solicited-and-cancelled Showcase Presents to finally make it out, aside from Secret Society of Super-Villains that got a color printing, and Suicide Squad. Y'know, I'm still optimistic about Suicide Squad, what with the recent collections of John Ostrander's Martian Manhunter and Spectre. Maybe next season?

Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Power Couple HC

Even as I have mixed feelings about the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship -- when it ends, it's going to end badly, and I fear that bad ending won't be written to reflect well on either character -- I'm eager for this book if only to see how it brings together the rather disparate continuity from the Superman, Wonder Woman, and Justice League titles together.

I'm down for the "evil" in July -- what's on your pick list?

Review: Sex Criminals Vol. 1: One Weird Trick trade paperback (Image Comics)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Writer Matt Fraction sets up his narrative dichotomy between the profane and the reverent (or, less seriously, the bawdy and the sweet) right from the outset in Image's Sex Criminals Vol. 1: One Weird Trick. It is, after all, a book called Sex Criminals, which is enough to make anyone blush from reading it on the subway; the first issue, however, is about as brilliant and sensitive an exploration of puberty-and-sexuality-through-comics-science-fiction as you're going to find. Sex Criminals likes to bill itself as a sex comedy, but while it's funny, the truth is there's considerable more heart and thoughtfulness in this book than in your average American Pie or its ilk.

Review: J. Michael Straczynski's Midnight Nation, Vol. 1 trade paperback (Top Cow/Image)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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

What if I told you that J. Michael Straczynski wrote a really good comic in which its hero walked across the United States? Admittedly, Midnight Nation and Superman: Grounded share almost nothing else and were published about ten years apart, but the former is part of a chain of proof that JMS is better when editorial interference is at a minimum. Key to JMS’s signature style is his willingness to change the status quo. Just as The Twelve starts as a fish-out-of-water plot and ends as a murder mystery, Midnight Nation starts as a police procedural and ends as religious fiction. These rapid changes in tone and concept work well in context, but often make it hard for JMS to do his best work in a larger universe (unless he’s in charge of its twists, as with Rising Stars).

Review: Constantine Vol. 1: The Spark and the Flame trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's an acknowledged hole in my personal DC Comics library that I've never read a volume of Vertigo's Hellblazer (I'll get there one day, promise). To that end -- and only having a Swamp Thing repertoire through Alan Moore's volumes -- I lack the ardent affinity for one John Constantine that many readers have. If a Vertigo figure is to be transferred back to the DC Universe, I want to see that done right, of course, but my bar is only as high as whether writers Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire are telling a good story and not which four-letter words Constantine is allowed to use under what imprint. And for my money, Fawkes and Lemire get it mostly right in Constantine Vol 1: The Spark and the Flame.

[Review contains spoilers]

The New 52 John Constantine first appeared in Peter Milligan's Justice League Dark and I was significantly underwhelmed. Trash-talking Constantine might have bullied some of his teammates, but there was hardly the roguish anti-hero the legends spoke of. Fawkes and Lemire, however, know what makes Constantine great (or terrible, in the story, but great as a character to read) and they bring it in the first issue. Constantine recruits young friend Chris on a quest for pieces of a magic compass, and then literally sacrifices Chris so that Constantine himself can escape from Sargon the Sorceress. Indeed that's what Milligan's Constantine was lacking -- Constantine letting one of his allies die so that he could live for the "greater good."

Review: Justice League: Trinity War hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

If the story that DC Comics's Justice League: Trinity War ended up being had been the story that readers had been expecting, I might consider it a passable, amusing first meeting between the three Justice League teams.

Unfortunately, the build-up and denouement of Trinity War so significantly differ from one another that it's hard to see what might otherwise have been a satisfactory story as anything other than a disappointment. And it's too bad, that.

[Review contains spoilers]

Every reader -- and I make that broad statement unequivocally -- went into Trinity War expecting that it would reveal the truth about Pandora, the mysterious figure who "caused" the New 52 relaunch in-story in Flashpoint and who appeared in every New 52 #1 issue, and about her fellow Trinity of Sin. While Trinity War does broaden Pandora's background somewhat, her role in Flashpoint and the reason she's been dogging DC's heroes is touched on not at all.

Review: X-O Manowar Vol. 1: By the Sword trade paperback (Valiant Entertainment)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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

Everything that happens in X-O Manowar Vol. 1: By The Sword occurred by page four in the first collection of the series' 1990s run, X-O Manowar: Retribution. However, this isn’t a case of a decompressed comic; instead, this is the kind of origin story that the character should have always had. For the Valiant relaunch of X-O Manowar, writer Robert Venditti went through the original run, found the parts that worked, and emphasized them to make the rebooted version successful. The idea of a fish-out-of-water superhero works better once we know who he actually is; a full issue goes by before ancient warrior Aric gets abducted by aliens, instead setting up his role in the war against the Romans. It’s not too complex, but it’s much more background than Retribution ever gave him.

Review: Justice League Vol. 4: The Grid hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fair warning that as with my recent review of Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis, this review of Justice League Vol. 4: The Grid might properly be called an "Uncollected Editions" column, in that I will mostly focus on the issues collected that precede the "Trinity War" tie-ins -- so, issues #18-20 and not issues #22-23 (issue #21 appears in the Shazam collection). This is ahead of my full-fledged Trinity War review, coming up.

I tend to like the first act of Justice League titles better than the second act. Grant Morrison's JLA was fairly superlative all the way through, but I favor pre-Rock of Ages to post; I dig Steel and Huntress being part of the League, but when I read a Justice League title, I want to read about the Big Seven, not their associates. I pretty well liked the line-up of Brad Meltzer's post-Infinite Crisis Justice League, too, but inevitably around Final Crisis-time most of the big guns bowed out and we were left with the second stringers. Not bad, but not my preference.

Trade Perspectives: Green Team, Teen Trillionaires and the Argument for Digital Trades

Friday, April 11, 2014

The news that DC Comics has cancelled the collection of Franco and Art Baltazar's Green Team, Teen Trillionaires marks the first New 52 ongoing series not to be collected in trade.* Previously it had seemed that every New 52 series would be collected, as evidenced by the number of cancelled series that received full collections -- Sword of Sorcery, GI Combat, and Team 7, to name a few.

Still, logically we probably might have expected this wouldn't last. And, if we take DC at their word regarding cancelled trades in the past, that pre-orders just weren't there, then logically we can't expect DC to publish a book on which they'd have a reasonable expectation they'd lose money. Admittedly, I did not pre-order Green Team, Teen Trillionaires, though I fully expected to purchase and read it at some point.

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

As many of you know, the Aquaman/Justice League crossover "Throne of Atlantis" is somewhat controversial among the wait-for-trade circles, in that each collection includes five of the same issues and only two independent of the other. The Justice League trade, at least, includes five of its own issues and two Aquaman issues; the Aquaman trade has four Aquaman issues to three Justice League issues, almost half-and-half.

I was disinclined to buy Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis given that there were only two issues I hadn't read, but I did want to read those issues as I gear up for Trinity War (itself its own collecting controversy) and Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King, and fortunately a friend had a copy to lend. As it turns out, those two issues factor into "Throne of Atlantis" significantly enough to offer a considerably different reading experience than reading the crossover through the Justice League Vol. 3 book. To that end, this review might more accurately fit in our "Uncollected Editions" series, as a look at the two issues original to Aquaman Vol. 3, Aquaman #0 and #14.

Review: Invincible: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 hardcover (Image Comics)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

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

Ten years after Deathmate, the core Image brand was in a rut. Some of its component studios were doing well for themselves, such as Top Cow’s successes both on the page and on television with Witchblade. But other parts were spinning off into their own companies, notably Dreamwave and Devil’s Due, following in Wildstorm’s footsteps. Image’s flagship title Spawn was far past its heyday of film and anime tie-ins; McFarlane Toys was on the downward spiral into making statues over toys. Still, Image had enough pull to get some creators to launch a group of titles featuring teenage superheroes. Firebreather by Phil Hester was great, but its animated adaptation entered development hell and killed much of its momentum. Jay Faerber seemed to be the next big thing thanks to Noble Causes until a disastrous run on DC's The Titans arguably tarnished his career.

And then there was Invincible. Robert Kirkman had made his Image debut with the Guyver-esque romp Tech Jacket, but his new book, about the son of Superman pastiche Omni-Man Nolan Grayson, seemed destined to not go far. Co-creator and artist Cory Walker kept the title delayed frequently, and his somewhat odd-looking artwork, including a tendency to draw eyes as just dots, was a bit off-putting. But then issue #8 happened and introduced two major turning points: the massacre of the Guardians of the Globe (a Justice League parody) and the arrival of new artist Ryan Ottley. Not only could Ottley stay on schedule, but his sharp, detailed artwork was like nothing Image had published in years. The switchover was also very amicable, which prevented background drama.

Review: Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2: Breach of Faith trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 07, 2014

I've seen J. M. DeMatteis's name a lot but I haven't read much of his work, and of that, most of it was "bwah-ha-ha" stuff co-written with Keith Giffen. To that end, I was a little nervous about his taking over Justice League Dark, which just finished a stellar third volume by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes, and also what his scripts for Phantom Stranger, from plots by Dan DiDio, would look like.

Having finished Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2: Breach of Faith, I can rightfully say I've followed DeMatteis's creations to Hell and back ... and I'd do so again in an instant.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the first volume of Phantom Stranger, DiDio posited this title as a bit like Quantum Leap or The Fugitive; in most of the issues the Stranger is sent, presumably by God, to push someone on to a certain path, and the Stranger is often responsible for betraying the person in the process. The second volume's structure is similar; the story finds the Stranger on a quest to find his missing adopted human family, but while there's more connection, the stories still feel self-contained and episodic. This is a boon, I think, as it gives the series an air of a horror serial like Tales from the Crypt or Twilight Zone.

Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Death of Magic trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

There was a team book I used to like. The characters didn't "go together" necessarily but were thematically tied, such that it was always interesting to see who'd walk in the door. The team had many adventures in the book, but somehow the series always seemed to avoid those adventures turning into over-hyped "events." Instead, storylines began and ended, usually fantastically, and then maybe there would be a quieter issue or two before the next big adventure would start. It was a book that just did its thing, and did it better than many others I've read.

That book was Geoff Johns's JSA. And some might think it blasphemy, but when I was reading Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes's Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Death of Magic, there were times I couldn't help but be reminded of JSA.

Uncollected Editions: Deathmate (Valiant/Image Comics)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

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

Valiant was robbed.

When you look at the six-issue Deathmate crossover between the 1990s Valiant and Image Comics universes and the industry crash it precipitated, it was Valiant that unfairly took the most damage. They put out their issues on time and did the best with what they were given. Their losses forced them to be bought out by Acclaim and their titles were revised to make them more viable for video game tie-ins. Yet Image, whose books were months late and heavily oversold, went on to launch numerous animated series, films, and toy lines. The fact that I can get an action figure of Rob Liefeld’s Shaft for six bucks on eBay while Archer and Armstrong remain confined to the printed page is an insult.

And now a word from Doug Glassman about Deathmate

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

And now a word from Doug Glassman about Deathmate ... [My best Don Pardo impression -- ed.]


I’ve been going about this all wrong! See, I just re-read Deathmate and it reminded me that I’ve forgotten a huge part of how I got into comics! Back in the day, my friend Jimmy and I would go to the comic book store across the street from our elementary school and check out the new stuff on display. And one day, there they were: Deathmate, all six issues, ready to be bought up by my grubby little hands. Just take a look at the six most important comics in my entire collection, my most prized possessions:

Behold all that beautiful multi-colored chrome! Here, take a closer look:

Aren’t they ... wait ... what’s that in the background?