Review: Catwoman Vol. 4: Gotham Underground trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ann Nocenti's Catwoman Vol. 4: Gotham Underground is just as madcap as the previous volumes. At best, the wild and winding story displays the heights of Nocenti's creativity, but at worst, the book is riddled with mistakes and non-sequiturs as if a byproduct of its over-exuberance.

Catwoman Vol. 4 is a long trade -- seven regular issues, an annual, and a Villains' Month issue -- and as I've said before, if a book can't be good, sometimes it's sufficient that there's a lot of it. Nocenti's tale of an above-ground Gotham gang conflict that leads to a war between fantastical subterranean tribes down below goes on long enough to gain some interesting complexity; it's the kind of thing, I'll say again, one might enjoy on a long airplane ride, self-contained and involving, even as the dialogue and characterization never rise above the most basic levels.

Review: Star Trek: Khan trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I'm a long-time Star Trek fan. I also thought J.J. Abrams's 2009 Star Trek was a masterfully constructed movie, and I left it with much optimism for the franchise. Imagine my disappointment, then, with Star Trek Into Darkness, which I found largely predictable, and lacking in the emotion and depth of its predecessor.

I have enjoyed what I've read of IDW's "new universe" Star Trek comics, however, largely written by Supergirl's Mike Johnson, and I have a general sense of these books as "nuTrek done right," as opposed to the newest movie. To that end, Johnson's Star Trek: Khan miniseries could have gone either way for me, sucked down by Into Darkness or buffeted by IDW's Trek comics presentation.

Review: Orion: Gates of Apokolips trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

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

Walter Simonson’s Orion series has fallen into obscurity bordering on myth due to simply being published at the wrong time. It ended shortly before DC’s “Rebirth” period (2003-2005), when major parts of the DC Universe were being changed around and when reprints were not a trade priority. It didn’t help that Orion had its roots in two series, Jack Kirby’s New Gods and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, which were not regarded too fondly at the time (or at present, really). The main continuing storyline from those stories involves Orion’s mother, Tigra, revealing that Darkseid is not really Orion’s father and thus the pact between New Genesis and Apokolips is void. Clearly his real father is the Skrull impersonator of Hank Pym.

Review: Lazarus Vol. 2: Lift trade paperback (Image Comics)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's Lazarus is many things -- family saga, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, crime drama (and that's all without mentioning the invincible sword-wielding ninjas), and above all eminently, eminently enjoyable. Rucka's first volume packed a riveting story into just four issues; at five issues, Lazarus Vol. 2: Lift decompresses just enough to give readers a greater look at the world in which Lazarus exists, while at the same time not taking away from protagonist extraordinaire Forever Carlyle.

Greg Rucka fans, go read Lazarus. Gotham Central fans, go read Lazarus. Y: The Last Man fans, go read Lazarus. Secret Six fans, go read Lazarus. Everybody, go read Lazarus. I just can't say enough good things about it.

DC Trade Solicitations for December 2014 - Superman: Earth One, Showcase Presents: Blue Beetle, Futures' End tie-ins

Friday, September 19, 2014

December 2014 looks like a good month for Superman fans judging by DC Comics's hardcover and trade paperback collections solicitations, between Superman: Earth One Vol. 3 and the one I'm most excited about, the Superman: Power Within collection of "Triangle Title" stories.

Also, can we read something in the tea leaves of the books that include their Futures' End tie-in issues, one of my favorite JLA storylines, and some pesky double-collected issues. Let's take a look.

Superman: The Power Within TP

I've had my eye on this one for a while now, and I'm glad to find it's turned out exactly as I hoped. As an ardent fan of the "Triangle Title" era of Superman, one big hole in my collection is the Action Comics Weekly Superman stories, which were in continuity and referenced at least one later on in the Superman books; I've been wanting to read these for a while and I'm happy that now I can.

However, the big headline for me is not that Power Within collects the Action Comics Weekly stories, but that it collects the three-part "Sinbad Contract" story from Superman #48, Adventures of Superman #471, and Action Comics #658. Setting aside that this story showcases a normal, loving Middle Eastern family even at a time before diversity was a big thing in comics, it's also a fantastic, fantastic Superman vs. Lex Luthor story, of the very kind that made the Triangle Titles era so great -- Luthor scheming, innocents caught in the middle, the works. Even though this was essentially a fill-in story not by the regular Super-team, I still recall it fitting seamlessly.

Matter of fact, I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon than with Dark Knight Over Metropolis, "Sinbad Contract," and then the Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite trade that collects the stories that immediately followed this one. That's some good reading.

Connective tissue in all of this is art by Curt Swan, but personally, I just love seeing some old favorites get collected. Highly recommended, everyone.

Superman Vol. 5: Under Fire HC
Superman: Krypton Returns HC

This is a pretty good month as far as Superman collections go. Superman Vol. 5 culminates Scott Lobdell's run on the title before Geoff Johns takes over. Between Superman Vol. 5 and the Superboy and Supergirl Vol. 4s, most of what's in the Superman: Krypton Returns collection is also collected in the individual volumes -- except for Action Comics Annual #2 and Superman #23.3: H'el. My hope is that these issues simply haven't been listed, not that they won't be collected (presumably in Superman Vol. 5); if Krypton Returns has six issues you can get elsewhere and just two issues you can't, that would obviously be the cause of some consternation.

Superman: Earth One Vol. 3 HC

Not to mention, Superman: Earth One Vol. 3. J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Earth One books are sometimes controversial, always interesting, and I have a soft spot for this series that launched the Earth One line. I'll be picking this up for sure.

Birds of Prey Vol. 5: Soul Crisis TP
Sinestro Vol. 1: The Demon Within TP
Superboy Vol. 5: Paradox TP
Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger Vol. 3: The Crack in Creation TP

Submitted for your consideration: The Birds of Prey and Superboy Vol. 5s and Phantom Stranger Vol. 3 are each the final collection of each series. All three books include the Futures' End tie-in issue. Sinestro Vol. 1 also includes that book's Futures' End tie-in. Does this mean bad things for the Sinestro book?

I am glad to see a couple of Futures' End tie-ins popping up already. I hope this is a sign those issues will be collected more regularly than the Villains Month issues were.

The Phantom Stranger trade collects, near as I can tell, parts 3, 7, 11, and 15 of the "Forever Evil: Blight" crossover.

Green Lantern Corps Vol. 5: Uprising TP

It appears as though Green Lantern Vol. 5: Test of Wills includes Green Lantern #27-34 and Green Lantern Corps #31-33, and the Corps volume includes Corps #28-34, Annual #2, and Green Lantern #31-33. If that holds up, it's five issues of Green Lantern not in Corps, and four issues of Corps not in Green Lantern, which is better than some other crossover collections we've seen. Unfortunately I think I just spoiled for myself Green Lantern Vol. 4's shocking ending.

JLA Vol. 6 TP

My all-time favorite storyline from JLA is "Rock of Ages" (leaving aside some of Grant Morrison's great one-off and two-off JLA stories). Set "Rock of Ages" aside, and my second-favorite might very well be Joe Kelly's Aquaman epic "The Obsidian Age," collected here in it's entirety. Justice Leagues present and (very) past, time travel shenanigans, some twists worthy of the Morrison run on JLA, and Doug Mahnke sharing art duties. Even if you don't have the other expanded JLA volumes, I think this one is going to read just fine on its own.

Showcase Presents: Blue Beetle TP

Even as I'm not thrilled with the black and white format for these, collecting the entire 1980s Blue Beetle series in one book is right in my wheelhouse. I'll be eyeing that Blue Devil collection too, though I still want to see books like Infinity Inc. in color and with premium paper.

Aquaman and the Others Vol. 1: Legacy of Gold TP

Very, very glad to see DC including the Aquaman #20 issue by John Ostrander here that was skipped in the main Aquaman collections.

Flash Vol. 5: History Lessons TP

I was thinking this was the volume that reintroduces Wally West, and then I was thinking it was a bit strange not to see that more prominently in the solicitation copy, but it's Vol. 6, not Vol. 5. The book switches to paperback, which surprises me with the upcoming TV series, but maybe a paperback would be more accessible to non-comics TV fans than a hardcover.

Supergirl Vol. 5: Red Daughter of Krypton TP

I think Supergirl as a Red Lantern is a pretty interesting idea, actually, and I'll be curious to read this one. Also includes Green Lantern #28, which we find in the Green Lantern Vol. 5 collection, and Red Lanterns #28-29, naturally.

The last solicitation month of 2014. What are you buying? (Superman: The Power Within!)

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Power Couple hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Power Couple is another impressive debut from writer Charles Soule, following his start on Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing Vol. 4: Seeder that I read last week. The Superman/Wonder Woman relationship is terribly fraught with narrative hurdles, many of which Soule overcomes or sidesteps with surprising ease. This book, which could easily portray two of DC Comics's biggest heroes at their most petty, instead delivers them at their most mature.

Over a decade ago, Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman was a big deal precisely because it recognized that the teaming of these two characters necessitated big stories that affected the landscape of the DC Universe. Soule's Superman/Wonder Woman offers the same aesthetic, introducing a trio of notable Superman villains into the New 52 landscape. Soule's Superman/Wonder Woman is smart on one hand and important on the other, and that's a pleasant turnout for a book with such potential to go wrong.

Review: Loki: Agent of Asgard Vol. 1: Trust Me trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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

Even though I’m skipping over the rest of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers run at the moment, it’s important to read them before you read Loki: Agent of Asgard Volume 1 -- Trust Me. The change from Kid Loki to Millennial Loki is explained fairly well in this new title but it will have far more effect if you go through the character’s journey with him.

I admit that “Millennial” is probably not the best way to describe the newest incarnation of the God of Mischief, but he’s too mature, at least in physical age, to be “Teen Loki." Cynics -- myself included -- might accuse Marvel of aging Loki up to take advantage of the popularity of his cinematic incarnation, and while that may have been one goal, it turns out that it was the best move for the character as well.

Review: Justice League of America Vol. 2: Survivors of Evil hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 15, 2014

I like Matt Kindt's Mind MGMT a lot, and so I was disappointed not to enjoy his Justice League of America Vol. 2: Survivors of Evil more. On the face of it, Kindt writing ARGUS's semi-covert League team would seem an easy fit, and it's hard to believe I would have bad things to say about what this book turns out to be, namely a Stargirl origin story and a Stargirl/Martian Manhunter team-up. But Survivors of Evil is at times confusing, at times predictable, and ultimately mostly irrelevant; I also didn't much like what it established about some of the characters within. I liked Forever Evil and the Justice League tie-in, Forever Heroes, but Survivors I just didn't think held up.

Review: Justice League Vol. 5: Forever Heroes hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

There's a bunch for long-time DC Comics fans to like in Geoff Johns's Justice League Vol. 5: Forever Heroes, though it makes for kind of strange reading as a trade. Despite the "Forever" moniker before each chapter's title, there's essentially two different stories here only tangentially related, so that what you begin to suspect Forever Heroes is about in the beginning is not what it ends up being about in the end. Combine that with at least one issue that's told almost entirely in flashback and mostly unrelated to the book's forward action, and you have a book that might maybe read better in single issues than under the banner of a "collection."

That said, Forever Heroes nicely weaves in and out of the Forever Evil event story, coinciding well and telling a story that compliments Forever Evil without being obligatory, and at the same time having some relevance on its own (especially the second story). It is in part a Cyborg spotlight, which is always welcome (I wouldn't sneeze at a Geoff Johns-penned Cyborg series). And again, a handful of eccentric, fan-favorite DC Comics concepts make their first major New 52 appearances here. Taken as a whole story, Forever Heroes reads a little off, but there's plenty to recommend the stories within.

Review: Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Vol. 5 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

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

Sometimes it seems like the only reason IDW publishes the Transformers: Robots in Disguise comic is to have a traditional foundation for More Than Meets the Eye to bounce off of. As I’ve said before, toy tie-in comics are usually closer to fan-fiction, but MTMTE has been able to surpass any corporate limitations. Moreover, James Roberts has been able to do this while making references to lots of previous Transformers fiction and turning obscure toys into memorable characters. The last time anyone accomplished this was Simon Furman in Transformers: The War Within, which ended prematurely due to Dreamwave’s poor management and collapse. As a critical, financial and artistic success, Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Vol. 5 is an assurance that the same fate won’t befall this title.

Review: Swamp Thing Vol. 4: Seeder trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Charles Soule's Swamp Thing Vol. 4: Seeder is a good first volume for Soule's new run -- by which I mean that it would not be a great third volume for his run, but for the first volume, it works. Soule has a number of parts of this book that are quite engaging, even as I think there's some parts in the middle that get away from him. However, in writing voice trumps all, and what Soule delivers here best of all is a great voice for Swamp Thing; this voice carries the book and is largely what would bring me back for the next volume.

[Review contains spoilers]

Yanick Paquette drew Scott Snyder's run on Swamp Thing that preceded Soule, a run often given to the serious, grotesque horror of the Rot, enemy of Swamp Thing's Green. As Paquette's realistic, detailed images fit Snyder's story, so too is Kano's rounded, more animated style perfect for Soule's take on the character. I've been a fan of Kano since his Action Comics days (not to mention H-E-R-O), and he depicts especially well the book's lighter moments, as well as the horror that arrives at the end.

Review: Forever Evil hardcover/trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Geoff Johns's best DC Comics successes over the past decade or so have been in mega crossover events, and in writing multi-layered portrayals of DC Comics's villains -- most notably Green Lantern's Sinestro, but also Flash's Captain Cold, Superman's General Zod, and others. To that end, the Forever Evil event miniseries plays more to Johns's strengths, and succeeds, better than the recent Flashpoint, at least.

Forever Evil is at its heart a Lex Luthor story, couched as it is in the trappings of the New 52's first big event. Johns writes a controversial Luthor; I applaud some of the chances he takes with the character, even as I view some of them maybe with a little skepticism. Certainly I'm interested to see Johns's Luthor work continue into the pages of Justice League. Arguably Forever Evil might not set the New 52 off in the best direction, but this book itself tells an enjoyable story.

Review: Deadpool Vol. 3: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

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

Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s Deadpool run is a classic example of why companies need to give writers time to understand their characters. From a good first volume and a great second volume comes this fantastic third volume, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which locks them in as one of the best Deadpool creative teams of all time. Much of this comes from finally giving Emily Preston, formerly an agent of SHIELD and currently a voice in Wade Wilson’s head after her death, a key role in the story. Not only can she explore his mind, but she can also take over his body at certain points, effectively becoming the conscience he never had.

Review: Swamp Thing Vol. 3: Rotworld - The Green Kingdom trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 01, 2014

Swamp Thing Vol. 3: Rotword - The Green Kingdom has the unfortunate happenstance of being the second "Rotworld" volume that I read, after Animal Man Vol. 3: Rotworld - The Red Kingdom. This inevitably means that some of the good surprises in the parts of these books co-written by Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have already been spoiled, and that lessens the impact that the Swamp Thing volume might initially have had.

But, as has been the case throughout these titles' New 52 incarnation, I ultimately just liked the Animal Man volume better than this Swamp Thing volume. There is some to like in the book, including an engaging set of parallel stories and interesting, controversial changes in the end, but in all having seen what "Rotworld" could be in Lemire's Animal Man book, I came to feel more could have been done with Snyder's Swamp Thing book.