Review: Mind MGMT Vol. 3: The Home Maker hardcover (Dark Horse Comics)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

It wouldn't be Mind MGMT if the book wasn't a riddle wrapped in an enigma, and Matt Kindt's Mind MGMT Vol. 3: The Home Maker is no exception. Kindt starts the third volume considerably far from where the second volume ended and the pieces take a while to coalesce, but three volumes in we trust by now that there's always a method to Kindt's madness and a startling twist waiting at the end. Here again, Home Maker is no exception, with a four-page fold-out spread that can only be described as "operatic."

In truth, Home Maker forwards the overall Mind MGMT story only slightly, though I'd argue there are so many little details sprinkled throughout that even if Mind MGMT doesn't get "further" here, it certainly gets deeper. I've read Kindt describes this as Mind MGMT's halfway point, and if the book is a little quieter (up until said operatic ending), it closes protagonist Meru's arc from the first two books and cements the status quo for Mind MGMT's next act.

Review: Godzilla: Half-Century War trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

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

IDW gained the Godzilla comics license in 2011, and for the most part, it took them some time to properly use it. This isn’t an isolated case; their Transformers comics especially have gone through a couple of different eras. So while IDW used a variety of ongoings-turned-limited series to figure out what to do with their newly-arrived license, they also gave writer/artist James Stokoe the opportunity to create a truly epic monster tale. Godzilla: The Half-Century War, as the title implies, follows the King of the Monsters from his post-World War II origins to the modern day. What sets this book apart from the other IDW Godzilla comics is its manga-based style.

DC Trade Solicitations for August 2014 - Batman Anniversary editions, Arkham Asylum, Zero Year, Gordon of Gotham, Martian Manhunter, Harley Quinn

Monday, May 26, 2014

Some interesting 1990s-2000s stuff in DC Comics's August 2014 hardcover and trade paperback collections solicitations, including Batman: Gordon of Gotham and collections of the Martian Manhunter and original Harley Quinn series. There's a bit more Forever Evil material to be found here, too, and some controversy in the collection schemes of Blight and Green Lantern. Let's take a look, shall we?

Batman 75th Anniversary Commemorative Collection

This collection slipped past me the first time around, but it caught my eye after this discussion on Dan DiDio's Facebook page.

Not surprisingly I'm more in the William Lange camp than I am in the Ken Cramer camp. Irrespective, pairing from the last 30 years Dark Knight Returns, Hush, and Court of Owls in a slipcase is interesting to me -- you've got a little Bronze Age, a little New Millennium Age, and then a New 52 title. That's probably a good cross-section if you had to pick one prominent Batman collection from each of those eras (which, depending on your point of view, is not to say "great" or "noteworthy" or "groundbreaking," just "prominent"), though I can't help think there's an era somewhere between Dark Knight Returns and Hush that's probably underrepresented here; what comes to mind first is Knightfall, or then maybe No Man's Land, though the challenges to including either of those in a slipcase collection like this is probably obvious. (All the No Man's Land volumes in a slipcase? DC could just have my money for that.)

Batman: Arkham Asylum 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition HC and New Edition TP

What I mainly find interesting here is the decision to release new twenty-fifth anniversary editions of Arkham Asylum simultaneously in hardcover and paperback. Just about every comics shop and chain bookstore has a copy of Arkham Asylum perpetually in stock, and I wonder if it was in recognition of that that this comes out in both versions at the same time -- whatever kind the bookstore doesn't have, that's the kind they'll order. I also wonder if DC might, or might do well to, stick the Arkham Asylum video game logo on one of these books. Blasphemy, I know, I know, but I also wonder if that might newly introduce this book to a new generation.

Batman: Gordon of Gotham TP

Regarding Gordon of Gotham, GCPD, and Gordon's Law, all collected here, the former is written by Dennis O'Neil and the latter two are written by Chuck Dixon. No knock on O'Neil, who made his own indelible mark on Batman, but much of the publicity I've seen for this book puts O'Neil first when he's only one third of this book to Dixon's two-thirds, and we really, really lack in the Chuck Dixon/DC Comics collections department. Draw your own conclusion whether this has anything to do with the reported bad blood between Dixon and DC.

Anyway, given that this is obviously being published in connection with the new Gotham TV series, I rather wish they'd included the Batman: Bullock's Law one-shot by Dixon also -- hat tip to the Dan DiDio Facebook page crowd for that one, too.

Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year – Dark City HC
DC Comics: Zero Year HC

When it was originally solicited I had called the DC: Zero Year book an "omnibus," but it actually doesn't have that moniker -- at 14 issues, it'll just be a pretty thick book. Most of these issues aren't being collected elsewhere, which makes a little sense since I don't believe they connect to events in the ongoing titles, though this does run contrary to DC's "collect every issue of a title in its own series's book" policy -- curious to hear if you're all happy with the "Zero Year" crossover issues being separated out or not.

Either way, I'm looking forward to this, not in the least because I'm curious what a Green Lantern Corps/"Zero Year" issue might be (no spoilers, please!). Nice touch by DC having the second Batman: Zero Year collection out at the same time.

Martian Manhunter: Rings of Saturn TP

As always, I think DC mining this mid-1990s stuff is an excellent step in the right direction, and the fact that it's stuff by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake doesn't hurt, either. Original solicitations mentioned issues #10-17 but not the DC One Million issue, but this one has it in it; hat tip to Paul Hicks for pointing it out (we miss your "Uncollected Editions," Paul!).

Earth 2 Vol. 4: The Dark Age HC

First Tom Taylor volume. This one is only four issues, #17-20, plus the second annual, which is kind of a small trade but I imagine that's because of the abrupt James Robinson/Tom Taylor switch and that things will even out after. Odd but not unwelcome that the Earth 2 collections include two annuals in two volumes.

Forever Evil: ARGUS TP
Forever Evil: Arkham War TP
Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion TP

Wouldn't be a crossover without some spin-off miniseries. This reminds me a bit of Final Crisis and its aftermath, like Revelations (which ultimately didn't have much to do with Final Crisis) and Rogues' Revenge. (Remember Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape? Wasn't that a trippy comic). Glad to see a couple of the Villains Month issues in there, which makes those feel not so removed from the events at hand.

Forever Evil: Blight TP

Again from the "Bound to Make No One Happy Except the People That It Does" department comes the full-book collection of Forever Evil: Blight, including Justice League Dark, Phantom Stranger, Pandora, and Constantine (two of which we would note are now DOA shortly after this crossover). You can read 'em here, or you can read 'em each in their own collections too.

Green Lantern Vol. 5: Test of Wills HC

As the saying goes, "I've got a bad feeling about this." This collection includes Green Lantern #27-34 and Green Lantern Corps #31-33, the latter of which issues from both series are the "Uprising" crossover (I've been so unfocused on the Green Lantern titles, which will change soon, that I believe I even missed that this crossover was going on). The fifth Green Lantern Corps trade isn't officially solicited yet, but early word is that it will contain issues #28-33 and an annual, so yes, that's just a four-issue difference between the Green Lantern and Corps trades (and the Corps trade, at present, doesn't have the Green Lantern issues while the Green Lantern trade has the Corps issues).

A four-issue difference isn't as bad as some other trades we've seen (you know the one) but I imagine this will dissatisfy some out there.

Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City HC
Harley Quinn: Vengeance Unlimited TP

Occurred to me the other day that Harley Quinn is now what Catwoman was in the 1990s, the kind of go-to bad-girl sex-symbol Bat-character. Despite that I think many long-time fans didn't much like Harley's new costume et al in the New 52, DC must be getting a good return on the character to see her starring in her own new series plus these collections of the 2000s Harley Quinn series (I have to think the forthcoming larger reprint of Gotham City Sirens is mainly spurred by Harley, too). I'd further posit that the new interest in Harley comes at least in part from Arkham Asylum series video game players, which is an interesting new phenomenon, video games (vs. TV, etc.) influencing comics.

Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Flesh HC

With issues #24-29 and the Villains Month issue, seems to me this might be the penultimate volume of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman run. One more six-issue volume would put us at issue #35.

That's what I'm buying (or at least flipping through on the spinner racks). What's on your pull list from DC Comics for August?

Review: Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell graphic novel (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

At the outset, I have to praise DC Comics for releasing Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell. First, it's always good to have original graphic novels on the stands. Second, for anyone who feels like "their" DC Universe has been eroded by the New 52, Bloodspell is a new story set essentially during the Silver Age Justice League "Satellite Era." A book like this, and Batman: Li'l Gotham, demonstrate that there's still stories that can be told using the old continuity.

Will you ever see a story using the married Superman and Lois Lane? I doubt it. But, could DC tell new stories in graphic novel or digital form using such "iconic" runs as Paul Levtiz's Legion of Super-Heroes, Marv Wolfman's New Teen Titans, the Justice League "Satellite Era" or Justice League International days? More and more, I think the answer looks like "never say never."

Review: Classic GI Joe Vol. 4 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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

By the end of Classic GI Joe Volume 3, about sixty percent of the franchise’s most popular characters had been introduced. The issues collected in Classic GI Joe Volume 4 came out right when the original Sunbow animated series started airing and became the foundation of that show’s cast, especially with the debuts of Spirit Iron-Knife, Flint, Lady Jaye, and the Crimson Twins. It becomes clear that Hasbro’s need to constantly introduce new characters was starting to hamper the story. There was no way for someone like, say, Blowtorch to really fit into what Larry Hama wanted to do, so as a result, he spends more time in a brown jumpsuit than in his firefighter’s outfit. Hama could get away with it because at the time, GI Joe was Marvel’s highest-selling subscription title.

Review: Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 19, 2014

I whole-heartedly approve of DC Comics releasing Nightwing: Old Friends, New Enemies, collecting stories from Action Comics #613-618 and #627-634. Someone may know better, but I believe this is the first time DC has collected a story from Action Comics Weekly, during the time in the late 1980s when Action Comics broke from being one of the Superman titles and became a weekly anthology (before eventually rejoining the Super-family and became a "Triangle Title").

Among not-insignificant events in the series, especially for an anthology, was Green Lantern stories that included the murder of John Stewart's girlfriend Katma Tui; there were also Superman stories written by Roger Stern and illustrated by Curt Swan that are due out in a collection next year.

Review: Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Geoff Johns caps his run on the New 52 Aquaman with a winner. Volumes 2 and 3 were both great, but Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King might be the greatest. Johns uses an obscure villain here (at least "obscure" to me), enough so that until I looked it up, I thought Johns was charting his own path, and the book is better for it -- it feels fresher, as if more focused on telling a story than proving Aquaman's "worth." Combine this with some genuine surprises and the result is a solid book.

[Review contains spoilers]

If you are like me, then you thought the Scavenger was a skinny old man that used to tangle with Karl Kesel's Superboy. If you are still like me, then you might have been pretty impressed that Johns repurposed Scavenger in the New 52 as a corrupt treasure hunter that tangles with Aquaman and just so happens to wear a diving suit that looks like an open-mouthed shark. In Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others and Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis, Johns spotlighted Aquaman foes Black Manta and Ocean Master respectively, demonstrating the true fearsomeness of each, and I enjoyed those books considerably. However, I thought it quite refreshing that Johns created a new Aquaman rogue for his final volume, one that I thought had a pretty compelling character and visage.

Review: Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

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

Every few years, Marvel comes up with a group of high-profile projects to draw in fans with huge media buzz about their concept or their creative team, akin to DC’s All-Star line. Right now, it’s the OGN line and the revived Marvel Knights imprint, but others include the Noir and Season One sub-lines and arguably the 2099 and Ultimate imprints.

The “Astonishing” line was designed to build off of the name recognition of Astonishing X-Men, which around 2010 was struggling with slipped deadlines and a controversial turn to evil by Forge. Only two mini-series ever came out of it; one, Astonishing Thor, suffered from extremely harsh reviews, and its failure helped to end the sub-line prematurely. But just as All-Star Batman and Robin has its All-Star Superman, Astonishing Thor has Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine.

Review: X-Files Season 10 Vol. 2 hardcover (IDW Publishing)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Joe Harris's X-Files Season 10 Vol. 2 reads more like a collection of X-Files episodes than the first volume did, mostly for better and only a little for worse. Whereas the first volume offered a single five-part story, Vol. 2 collects five issues comprising four separate stories. The result is something that generally feels more natural and series-like than the first volume's pointed parade of guest stars.

Call it, perhaps, the first volume's season premiere versus the second volume's initial handful of episodes, or a mythology episode versus some monster-of-the-week-type episodes. Both have their place, but with this volume, Harris cements that X-Files Season 10 is underway.

Review: Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year -- Secret City hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 08, 2014

If there's anyone I trust to write a sequel (or un-sequel) or remake (or un-remake) of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, it's current Batman scribe Scott Snyder, whose Batman: The Black Mirror took one scene of Year One and built around it an entire generational saga that's still affecting the DC Universe post-Flashpoint. Like Gail Simone writing a Barbara Gordon Batgirl, Scott Snyder knows Year One and he's not going to hurt it, and I've never been concerned of such since DC announced the "Batman: Zero Year" project.

The first volume of "Zero Year," Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year: Secret City, is in the main a good and engaging re-telling of Batman's first clash with one of his classic foes (and not perhaps the one you might expect). The aesthetic that Snyder brings to the book is its most surprising element, however, a kind of Grant Morrison zaniness a la the early Batman and Robin, which is remarkable for what a turn it is both from Snyder's previous Batman work and also from Miller's Year One itself.

Review: X-Men Vol. 1: Primer trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

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

Remember when I used to review Marvel trades? Let’s get back to that for a bit.

One of the Marvel NOW! initiative’s main concepts was “try everything," especially when it came to relaunching nearly the entire X-Men line. Of course, it didn’t always work out; the two X-Force titles have been combined into one and X-Men: Legacy is coming to an end, both because its story is over and because Marvel likely wants to reuse that title. But the wide range of X-titles has provided quite a few interesting reading options, with the stand-out for me being Brian Wood’s X-Men. It was the last of the original NOW! titles to launch since Olivier Coipel needed more time; as with John Cassaday, Marvel really needs to remember to not put Coipel on too many projects at once.

Even with the delay, the issues collected in X-Men Vol. 1: Primer kept up the readers’ anticipation for one huge reason: the entire cast is female. All-female or majority-female teams were another theme of Marvel NOW!, with Avengers Assemble revolving around Spider-Woman, Fearless Defenders being comprised entirely of women, and Uncanny X-Force having Puck as the only male teammate. These books are all unfortunately no longer being published for a variety of reasons, and hopefully Marvel won’t take that as a sign that female-heavy comics are unprofitable.

Review: Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Cross World hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 05, 2014

Writer Greg Pak starts off Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Cross World with a riff on the "dual narration" that Jeph Loeb used on Superman/Batman, and that nostalgic touch immediately made me feel at home on this title. At the same time, while Ed McGuinness's boisterous, cartoony art was perfect for the original early 2000s title, Jae Lee's art deco steampunk whimsy makes this title feel different than what came before, more mature in keeping with the ultra-modern New 52. Cross World is strong on words and pictures, a little less so on plot, but it perfectly captures the kind of story one expects from this title.

[Review contains spoilers]

Between Lee's winding, twisting Gotham and some of the liberties that Pak takes -- a drug dealer offers Clark Kent some "kind bud"; a little kid flips off Superman just out of panel -- the new Batman/Superman series almost has a "mature readers" feel to it. It's a presentation considerably different than the wild superheroics of Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman (reflecting, perhaps, the greater Batman influence here and the greater Superman influence there); which is OK for this day and age; the gritty "realism" of Batman/Superman is probably about what the Batman vs. Superman movie producers are shooting for, too.

Review: Marvel's Agents of SHIELD: "Nothing Personal"

Thursday, May 01, 2014

With "Nothing Personal," the twentieth episode of ABC's Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, we're only just beginning to get a sense of what this series is about, really. With two episodes left in the season, it'll probably be next year (if the show is renewed) before we truly understand what the series's status quo is -- on the "non-mythology" episodes, will they still be flying around on the plane, investigating metahuman incidents, or something else? -- but "Nothing Personal" is the first time the cast knows all (or at least most of) the major secrets and are finally on equal footing both with each other and with the viewing audience.