Review: Batwoman Vol. 3: World's Finest hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Of all the titles that DC Comics is about to cancel around Convergence, I think the cancellation of Batwoman gave me the most pause. No offense to current Batwoman writer Marc Andreyko -- whose Manhunter series I'd still put on anyone's DC Comics required reading list (hey DC, how about a New 52 revival of that?) -- but perhaps the only thing that mitigated my disappointment over Batwoman's cancellation is that JH Williams and Hayden Blackman are no longer the team on Batwoman, and I'm not sure if the book can be quite the same without them, and especially without Williams's art.

Case in point, while I enjoyed the second Batwoman volume's story well enough even despite the guest artists (and especially on my second read), Batwoman Vol. 3: World's Finest, with Williams's return to art duties, is really something exceptional. Surely Williams and Blackman's writing plays a great role, effortlessly and vividly bringing to life the voices of Batwoman, Wonder Woman, even bizarre mythological creatures, but Williams's art here is second-to-note, especially in the one- or two-page individual-character sequences. Arguably no other book has been so readily filled with spreads suitable for framing.

Review: Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

[Guest review by Wayne Brooks; Wayne's local comics shop is AfterTime Comics in Alexandria, Virginia.]

Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 2 collects Green Lantern #182, 183, 185-193. It follows three journeys: John Stewart settling in as Earth's Green Lantern, Hal Jordan’s coming to grips with choosing his love of Carol Ferris over being a Lantern, and the beginnings of something epic in the Green Lantern universe. I remember when I bought this series in 1984. DC hasn’t used John Stewart much since he debuted in Green Lantern #87 in 1972. This run (and, later, the animated Justice League cartoon) took the “abandoned” character of John Stewart and made him into a mainstay.

Review: Planetary Omnibus hardcover (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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

As I’ve mentioned a few times in my solicitation round-ups, I’m not that big of a fan of huge, hardbound omnibus editions. However, I do agree that there are cases where an omnibus is the best way to collect a comic -- specifically, if it collects the entirety of an otherwise uncollected series, such as Kurt Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man or the upcoming omnibus of Walter Simonson’s Orion. The Planetary Omnibus released earlier this year also falls into this category despite having previous collections. Due to the very erratic release schedule, the trades are no longer in print, while the Absolute Editions are both rare and expensive. For less than the price of one Absolute Edition, this omnibus gives you the entirety of the series in the way it was meant to be read: all at once.

Review: Nightwing Vol. 5: Setting Son trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 22, 2014

In the chicken-and-the-egg that is Nightwing Vol. 5: Setting Son, it's hard to say if the book's cancellation was spurred by the tepidness of the material, or if the impending cancellation ruined writer Kyle Higgins's plans such to result in the lackluster stories. Either way, though Higgins continues to have a good handle on the Nightwing character and writes Dick Grayson's voice well, this volume indicates it was about time to bring Nightwing to a close, though neither does it make the new Grayson series seem particularly appetizing.

DC Trade Solicitations for April/May 2015 - Deathstroke by Wolfman, post-Crisis Superman vs. Darkseid, Batman: Earth One Vol. 2, Deluxe Dial H

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Quite a bit of news in DC's March 2015 comics solicitations (which came out simultaneous with their April/May 2015 hardcover and trade paperback collections solicitations), most notably the cancellation of thirteen different titles. Some of these hurt -- Swamp Thing and Batwoman, specifically -- though in each case I can see how the titles have outlived their usefulness or lessened in impact under new creative teams. I'm curious to see just how many of DC's replacement titles in a couple months are "franchise" titles, given that the Aquaman spin-off Aquaman and the Others went under, plus almost all the Green Lantern titles.

Notable how many new series like Klarion, Infinity Man, Secret Origins, and Arkham Manor are also going; DC's not releasing new title "waves" any more, but I'm curious what if any titles launched after the original New 52 launch still survive other than newer titles like Harley Quinn, Justice League United, and the like. By my count, not many, if at all, though I'm hopeful that the rumored diversity of writers and artists on the new line might help bolster things.

Anyway, let's look at the trades:

Deathstroke, the Terminator Vol. 1: Assassins TP

Three years ago DC Comics solicited a Deathstroke, the Terminator: Assassins trade, ahead of the New 52 relaunch, only to then cancel it before publication. Well, surely meant as a companion to the new New 52 (All-New New52 NOW?) Deathstroke series, I'm thrilled to see this back on the schedule.

Assassins collects issues #1-9 of the Marv Wolfman Deathstroke series, plus the lead-in, New Titans #70. Issues #1-5 were previously collected as Deathstroke, the Terminator: Full Cycle. That book is long out of print -- I've never seen a copy. Deathstroke was a good spy/espionage title, often dealing with international missions, just violent and mature enough to be "Deathstroke," but under Wolfman's pen the book lacks the mindless carnage that has seeped into Deathstroke's later appearances. Titans fans, Suicide Squad fans, Deathstroke fans, I implore you to pre-order this one so DC collects more of the series (and I'm still waiting on that Titans Hunt collection).

Deadshot: Bulletproof TP

Though I feel less passionately about this collection of the 2005 Deadshot miniseries by Christos Gage, though DC soliciting a Deathstroke and Deadshot trade in the same month amuses me -- Assassins Month! I don't mind Deadshot getting some trade love, though, and I know this miniseries introduces some elements that continued into Deadshot's pre-Flashpoint Secret Six appearances.

Batgirl Vol. 1: Burnside HC

It drives me absolutely Bat-bonkers that DC is re-numbering this trade as volume one in the series when it isn't being re-numbered in the title itself. I pity the retailer with a customer who wants to start at the beginning -- "You mean the beginning-beginning or the most recent beginning?" I can understand it somewhat with Teen Titans and Suicide Squad (though I rather wish those books had continued their previous numbering ... as DC allowed Batgirl to do), but this ... Bat-bonkers, people.

The trade includes both the much-lauded issue #35 and at the same time the controversial issue #37.

Batman – Detective Comics Vol. 6: Icarus HC

I've been enjoying lately John Layman's run on Detective Comics, but Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul are a powerhouse team and I'm curious to see their take on a DC hero other than Flash (Francis Manapul variant cover month, anyone?). The trade includes issues #30-34 plus the Annual #3.

Batman Earth One Vol. 2 HC

Jeff Lemire recently knocked Teen Titans: Earth One out of the park, so my excitement about Earth One is high right now, especially with Superman: Earth One Vol. 3 coming up soon. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank did a fine job with Batman: Earth One Vol. 1, and the Vol. 2 solicitations mention Killer Croc, whom I don't remember from the first volume, so I'm curious to see where this goes.

Batman/Superman Vol. 3: Second Chance HC

I've enjoyed Greg Pak's work on this title, but there's a whole lot of artists listed for it, some of whom I don't favor and none of whom are original series artist Jae Lee, so I'm a little concerned about this one. It does include the Futures End tie in issue.

Dial H Deluxe Edition HC

Much gnashing of the teeth can be done about the fact that this deluxe edition of the New 52 Dial H series doesn't include the Villains' Month "Dial E for Evil" one-shot. I can say, having read the whole series including the one-shot, you're not missing all that much without "Dial E" and in fact, the book might even read better. Some stories in this one are better than others, but it contains one of the best single issues I've ever read.

I believe many of us would like to see deluxe editions of the New 52 titles like this, though I imagine this one earns the format largely because of writer China Mieville.

Gotham City Sirens Book Two TP

A pleasant surprise that DC has finished their re-collection of Gotham City Sirens in just two volumes. This one ends the series shortly before the New 52 relaunch, and includes the "Judgment on Gotham" crossover tie-in issue that also involved the Azrael series of that time.

Green Arrow Vol. 6: Broken TP

I am sorry to see Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino leaving the Green Arrow title (I sincerely hope DC keeps Sorrentino). Despite some confusing solicitations, this is their last volume, not the first volume of the new Arrow-centric team. This trade's a bit on the short side, as some previous Green Arrow collections have been around team-changes, with just three regular issues plus the Futures End tie in and a story from the (newly canceled) Secret Origins.

Green Lantern Vol. 6: The Life Equation HC

Curiously, this is a bunch of parts of the "Green Lantern: Godhead" crossover, but supposedly without the New Gods: Godhead issue that kicked it off. DC does have a pattern lately of collecting individual series's parts of crossovers in their own books, but usually with the revelant lead-ins; I'd be surprised if New Gods: Godhead wasn't in here, and I can't quite figure where else it might be collected instead.

Justice League 3000 Vol. 2: The Camelot War TP

I'm still not sure what to make of Justice League 3000; if the title's world turns out to be one of the Convergence bottle earths, that'll make more sense. This is the one with Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Fire, and Ice, but which continuity's version of those characters makes all the difference.

Justice Society of America: A Celebration of 75 Years HC

Remains to be seen what's in here, though the fact that the Justice Society is also turning 75 made me realize that all these Batman, Superman, Robin, Flash, etc. anniversaries are all of their Golden Age iterations, even though largely what we're celebrating are their Silver Age incarnations. The Justice Society book is therefore a little different in that it's actually celebrating the team's inception, more or less, as opposed to what came after.

Superman vs. Darkseid TP

I adore this collection probably for about the same reason a lot of people aren't going to like it. It appears, first of all, to be an almost entirely post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, pre-Flashpoint trade (aside from the Villains' Month story). The real meat of the trade is a three-part Legends tie-in, wonderful as it is to fans of that era but perhaps dated to everyone else.

Then we have the Superman vs. Darkseid: Apokolips Now from late in the Jeph Loeb/Mark Schultz/Doug Mahnke Superman era (the actual book has art by Mike McKone), which is equally weird and of its time, and includes the time-lost Silver Age Kara Zor-El side-by-side with Linda Danvers in a tie to the end of Peter David's Supergirl. And then we have just two issues from the six-part Superman/Batman: Supergirl, and then two issues from Countdown to Final Crisis (fer gosh sakes) and just one issue from Death of the New Gods, both panned in their own rights.

So I think we can conclude from all that that this collection won't be great necessarily (and the absence of original Jack Kirby material is somewhat startling), but at the same time it has a certain charm for those of us who sat through these stories the first time.

One last time for 2014, you know what I'm thinking of buying ... what's on your wishlist for this month?

Review: Cable and X-Force Vol. 1: Wanted trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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

It’s apparent that for the Marvel NOW! initiative, the X-editors couldn’t figure out what format to use for X-Force. On the one hand, Rick Remender’s weirder and more continuity-laden Uncanny X-Force had been a hit. On the other hand, readers were clamoring for the return of classic X-Force characters, especially since Cannonball and Sunspot had been upgraded to Avengers. As a result, they made an interesting decision: “Let’s try both and see what happens." Unlike the multiple Avengers titles, there’s not a wide enough readership for multiple X-Force books, so there was a sense that only one format would survive. Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larroca’s series won, at least in the sense that the books merged into a team led by Cable after a crossover. The first volume is Cable and X-Force Vol. 1: Wanted.

Review: COWL Vol. 1: Principles of Power trade paperback (Image Comics)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Part Ex Machina (which was itself part West Wing), part Watchmen, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel's COWL Vol. 1: Principles of Power is another great addition to Image Comics's pantheon of self-contained, imaginative series. The first volume is largely introductory, with a maybe too-split focus between introducing the characters and establishing what the rest of the series will be about, but there's a lovely amount of superhero politics involved that places COWL firmly next to Ex Machina and Greg Rucka's Checkmate, for instance.

Review: Deadpool Vol. 5: The Wedding of Deadpool trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

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

This is a weird trade -- not because of what’s in Deadpool Vol. 5: The Wedding of Deadpool, but rather in how it’s assembled. It collects issues the first Annual along with issues #26-28 ... but the Annual is also included in a later trade, this particular book starts with #27 and ends with #26, and the Annual came out before any of the issues published here. Since they’re in the book out of order, I’ll talk about them out of order.

The Annual was the first work for Marvel by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker of Thrilling Adventure Hour fame, and it simultaneously brings back a character while explaining away a format change. The previous volume of Deadpool by Daniel Way featured a second set of captions to go along with the traditional yellow boxes. The white boxes weren’t as funny, took up too much room on the page and often interrupted the story’s flow. Acker and Blacker reveal that this is because during an adventure, Deadpool and fellow immortal vigilante Madcap died and fused together; the white boxes were Madcap’s thoughts. This actually makes re-reading Way’s Deadpool a lot more worthwhile; it’s also reminiscent of Deadpool bodily merging with Cable in the Cable and Deadpool book.

Review: Batman Eternal Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, December 08, 2014

As I've said before, sometimes if something isn't good, it's a consolation at least that there's a lot of it. Such is the case with Batman Eternal Vol. 1, which is about a 500-page trade, such that if you take it along on a plane trip you'll have plenty to occupy you until you touch down. And I appreciate that whereas sometimes DC has collected their weekly series into four or more volumes, the first year of Eternal will be done in two volumes that, again, offer a hefty amount of reading.

This doesn't make up for the fact that Eternal bows significantly under its own weight. Trimmed down to a monthly series, Eternal might make for a peppy Bat-epic, but as a weekly title, Eternal is bloated and repetitious. The book would seem to have a number of lofty goals, including serving as something of a backdoor pilot for DC's newly revised line of Bat-titles and adhering the New 52 Batman mythos closer to the Gotham TV show. But this volume of Eternal turns out to be a lot of prelude for the supposed "real" story in the next volume, and I think it'll leave readers wondering if all this build-up was worth it.

DC Comics Convergence: Guide to What to Read Before: Week Four

Friday, December 05, 2014

It's Week Four, the final week of our Convergence coverage, where we look at what DC Comics trade paperbacks and collections lead in to the Convergence miniseries that DC announced this week.

I was pretty on the mark with my guesses last week that this week would spotlight DC's Silver Age Justice League "Crisis"/Multiverse stories that pre-dated Crisis on Infinite Earths this week. We've got representation from Earth 2, Earth 3, Earth 4, Earth S, and Earth X, though I was wrong about the inclusion of the Batman of Earth 5. I am glad to see spotlights not just on the Justice Society, but also Infinity Inc., and also Infinity Inc. stars Huntress and Power Girl in their own Convergence miniseries.

Here's the run-down:

• Justice Society of America (Dan Abnett)
• Crime Syndicate (Brian Buccellato)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 1
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6

Probably the latest-most appearances of the Multiple Earths-era Justice Society is Infinity Inc. Vol. 1: The Generations Saga, which collects that series's issues just prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths. The classic Justice League/Justice Society team-ups, however, including the introduction of the multiple Earths and "Earth 2" concept," can be found in the Crisis on Mulitple Earths series of books. Because each volume deals with different Earths, these will be sprinkled throughout this list, but the first volume is a good starting place both for the Silver Age introduction of the Justice Society. The very earliest individual-character team-ups, like the first meeting between Earth 1's Flash Barry Allen and Earth 2's Flash Jay Garrick, can be found in the Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups volumes.

The Earth 3 Crime Syndicate (who've re-appeared in a number of continuities, including Grant Morrison's troublingly-named JLA: Earth 2 and the recent Forever Evil) also first appeared in a story collected in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 1. They battle the Justice League and Justice Society in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6 as well.

• Infinity Inc. (Jerry Ordway)

What to read:
Infinity Inc.: The Generations Saga
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 5

It's a thrill to see Jerry Ordway, noted artist of the classic Infinity Inc. series, involved with this book, though I dare say I wouldn't have minded seeing him pencil it as well. Irrespective, one can catch up with Infinity Inc. with the sole collection of this series. DC solicited a second collection but later canceled it before publication; I can only hope that maybe if people buy the heck out of Convergence: Infinity Inc., maybe we'll see that book solicited again.

Infinity Inc. apparently fights Jonah Hex in this one; Hex meets the Justice League and Justice Society in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 5.

• Detective Comics (Len Wein)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 2
Huntress: Darknight Daughter

It's similarly interesting to see long-time Batman and Detective Comics scribe Len Wein writing Convergence: Detective Comics. Given the presence of Huntress Helena Wayne in this one, though, it's surprising the book didn't go to Huntress-creator Paul Levitz, who's instead writing the Convergence: World's Finest Seven Soldier's story. Regardless, the second volume of Crisis on Multiple Earths includes the first appearance of the grown-up Earth 2 Robin Dick Grayson, and Huntress: Darknight Daughter collects Levitz's Silver Age Huntress back-up stories.

• Action Comics (Justin Gray)

What to read:
Power Girl

In the way that all of this week's books deal with some of the same time period, there's some overlap; case in point, both Huntress and Power Girl can be found in the Infinity Inc. trade. The Earth 2 Power Girl's Silver Age origin from Showcase Comics is reprinted in the Power Girl trade that came out just before the series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Convergence: Action Comics-writer Justin Gray.

• World's Finest Comics (Paul Levitz)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3

The classic Seven Solders of Victory cross over with the Justice League and Justice Society in a story collected in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3. Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't believe the Seven Soldiers exist on a different Earth in this one, just that they're time-lost.

• Blue Beetle (Scott Lobdell)

What to read:
Crisis on Infinite Earths

Though this is called Convergence: Blue Beetle, it actually seems to represent DC's Charlton characters -- Question and Captain Atom, at least. The Charlton characters joined DC very late, such that the main pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths appearance of the Earth 4 iteration of these characters is actually Crisis on Infinite Earths; after Crisis, they were retconned as being originally from the main DC Earth.

• Shazam (Jeff Parker)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 4

At first I thought it was Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil and Bone's Jeff Smith writing this one, but it's Jeff Parker -- maybe not as headline-making, but the Aquaman scribe is OK, too. The Silver Age Justice League and Justice Society first encounter Fawcett's Marvel characters, now of Earth S, in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 4.

• Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters (Simon Oliver)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3
Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron Vol. 1

The Freedom Fighters from Earth X meet the Justice League and Justice Society also in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3. The Silver Age Plastic Man appears alongside other heroes of this era in Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron.

• Booster Gold (Dan Jurgens)

What to read:
Justice League International Vol. 1: The Signal Masters
Justice League International Vol. 2: Breakdown
All Star Western: Gold Standard

Though this is listed as a "Multiple Earths" book, my guess is the Booster Gold here is the New 52 Booster Gold, so required reading would be Dan Jurgens's two volumes of Justice League International, which finished with Booster involved in a time-crisis. True completists might want Booster's appearance in All-Star Western, but the Dan Jurgens-penned books ought be good enough. Now, if this turns out to be some pre-/post-Flashpoint Booster Gold hybrid, the Geoff Johns Booster Gold series might then come in to play.

So that does it for DC Comics's Convergence announcements. I'm more excited about some of the upcoming weeks than others, but all in all I think DC's done a pretty good job of covering their various eras here; at least one I might have liked to see was an immediately post-Crisis on Infinite Earths week, using the Byrne-era Superman, Perez-era Wonder Woman, Miller-era Batman, etc. Any eras or titles that you think DC missed with Convergence?

Check out my previous weeks' Convergence Reading Guide features. Thanks!

Week One
Week Two
Week Three

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: The Wrath hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

John Layman and Jason Fabok continue their impressive run with Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: The Wrath. Layman again tells interesting stories about Batman versus his various rogues, both established, esoteric, and ones Layman has created fresh for this volume. The storytelling twists and winds at times, though for the most part not unpleasantly, and again Layman's deep-character backups stories form the jewels that help this crown sparkle. Detective Comics is really engaging here, something it isn't always, and Layman and Fabok are to be commended for it.

Review: Deadpool Vol. 4: Deadpool vs. SHIELD trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

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

Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s Deadpool Vol. 4: Deadpool vs. SHIELD carries a bit of a misleading title. Admittedly, Deadpool vs. ULTIMATUM and One Crooked Agent of SHIELD would be a less interesting title despite its accuracy. Much of the reasoning behind the trade’s title is synergy with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The issues collected here came out shortly before the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and concurrently with the Agents of SHIELD television show’s build-up to the film. As a result, John Garrett (Bill Paxton’s character in Agents) gets name-checked, Batroc the Leaper and Crossbones appear, and Phil Coulson plays a major role along with his flying car Lola.

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: Emperor Penguin hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Detective Comics has been of late one of the also-rans of the Batman family line, paling in comparison to the big doings in Scott Snyder's Batman and Peter Tomasi's Batman and Robin. It's therefore well worth mentioning that Chew writer John Layman's arrival with Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: Emperor Penguin heralds a group of relevant, surprising Batman stories that evoke a tone of Batman: The Animated Series or Paul Dini's previous run on Detective. No offense to Brian Buccelato and Francis Manapul to come on this title, but based on Emperor Penguin I'd have been glad to see Layman writing Detective for the long haul.