Review: The Illegitimates collected hardcover (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Two main things distinguish IDW Publishing's The Illegitimates: one, the premise of the illegitimate children of a James Bond-analogue and his Bond Girls being recruited as super-spies, and second, the involvement of writer/creator and Saturday Night Live cast member Taran Killam (with Manhunter and Batwoman's Marc Andreyko). Aside from those aspects, there is not much more recommend Illegitimates; it's generally entertaining and a fine diversion for an afternoon, but fails to do anything beyond a surface level telling of the story. I'd read the next volume of Illegitimates, but generally I think the story was not all that it could have been.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Norm Breyfogle benefit collection solicited

Monday, January 26, 2015

A couple of (much appreciated) Collected Editions readers have written to alert me of the new Legends of the Dark Knight: Norm Breyfogle currently being solicited. This was not in DC Comics's Spring 2015 releases list, so it looks like this is indeed a rush solicitation.

As you all likely know, Breyfogle unfortunately suffered a stroke in December. Fundraising efforts have been started to help pay hospital costs, but Comic Book Resources reports (in a comprehensive column that also lists many of Breyfogle's accomplishments) that the family has not yet been able to raise the amount they requested. (Visit the family's official fundraising page at the link.)

Breyfogle continued to draw for DC at the time of his stroke, but he's likely best known for a long run as artist and co-creator on a long run in Detective Comics and Batman in the early 1990s, often with writer Alan Grant (continuity note, Grant and Breyfogle's Batman run follows right after writer Peter Milligan's, about to be collected in Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City, so it's increasingly possible to read a good chunk of this Batman era). Among a variety of incredibly notable 1990s Batman stories, Breyfogle's work includes the "Mudpack" Clayface story; the first appearance of Anarky; a variety of formative Robin Tim Drake stories, including the fate of Tim's parents and a battle with King Snake; and the introduction of Harold. I read a good number of these stories in single issues when they came out and remember them clearly.

This is all to say that a Norm Breyfogle/Alan Grant collection would have been an exciting release and a worthwhile buy all on its own, but is of course especially important considering how royalties from the book will help Breyfogle and his family. Content information on Legends of the Dark Knight: Norm Breyfogle is spotty right now, but I encourage everyone to give it a look; if the volume is as comprehensive as I expect, it's going to be a hell of a Batman read aside from supporting a good cause.

Review: Red Lanterns Vol. 4: Blood Brothers trade paperback (DC Comics)

As regards the new teams on the Green Lantern titles after Geoff Johns's run, Green Lantern showed some inventiveness but also troubled characterization; Green Lantern Corps did not live up to the level of its predecessors and Green Lantern: New Guardians continued a downward trend. It's therefore a joy to find at the end of the fourth volumes that new series writer Charles Soule's Red Lanterns Vol. 4: Blood Brothers is the best the series has ever been, faithful to what came before while swiftly realizing its potential in a way the book never did before. I'd thought Red Lanterns warranted cancellation for a while, but it's unfortunate that the book is about to be cancelled now that it's become so good.

DC Trade Solicitations for May/June 2015 - Superdoom, Batman: Hunt for Robin, Arkham: Riddler, Earth 2: World's End, JLA Vol. 7

Friday, January 23, 2015

Obviously the big draw in DC Comics's April 2015 (May/June hardcover and trade paperback collections solicitations) is the start of the two-month Convergence event (if you missed my "What to read before Convergence" guides, you can find those at the link). I'm excited for Convergence, but I wonder if I'll be as excited once it actually comes around (and then, even later, when it's collected in trade). Right now, I think part of the intrigue, aside from seeing these lost characters again, is wondering how it will all end up and what happens next. Talking about solicitations, however, we're going to know "what's next" well before we crack the pages of Convergence; to that end, probably the time of most excitement for Convergence is right here and now. Probably this is a difficulty with the whole comics solicitations cycle in general; very often we already know the end of the story before we start reading.

Case in point is some of this month's trades -- if you're like me, you already know how Batman and Robin: The Hunt for Robin turns out, what event Superdoom teases, who appears in Flash: Out of Time, etc. This doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for reading any of these books, though I wonder if I'd have ended up enjoying them more if I didn't know what was what. Anyway, here's today's contestants:

Batman and Robin Vol. 6: The Hunt for Robin HC

For me, Damian Wayne's sensationalized death somewhat cheapened the character for me, but his potential resurrection would seem to cheapen his death, so I guess I'm just determined not to be happy. It seems like a long way around for the Batman and Robin title to take nearly a year to undo Batman, Inc. and then continue telling its own stories -- can't help but think of that as kind of wheel-spinning -- but I have consistently liked Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's work, so I imagine when I get right down to it, I'll like what they do here, too. This collects issues #29-34 plus the Robin Rises: Omega one-shot.

Batman: Arkham – The Riddler TP

These stories do not particularly take place in Arkham Asylum, so one assumes here that "Arkham" in the title is meant to be a call out to the video game fans. That's an interesting (and perhaps unlikely) market for what's largely Golden and Silver Age stories, but I am intrigued by DC using collections strategies that usually go with movies (see the Superman vs. Zod collection) now for video games.

The older stories in this book do include the Riddler's first appearance. Notable are the exquisite Paul Dini stories from his short Detective Comics run. And the book also includes Scott Snyder's Villain's Month Riddler story, Batman #23.2, which has enough connection to Zero Year that I'm surprised this is the only place DC is collecting it.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 6: Superdoom HC

I just read the Green Lantern: Lights Out crossover by reading each title's individual trade on its own, which ultimately didn't serve the latter parts in the latter series very well. My understanding about the Superman: Doomed crossover is that it was pretty structured, such that I'm skeptical about reading just the Action Comics parts on their own (Action Comics #30-35 being a prelude and then part one of a couple different sub-stories). Also the Superman: Doomed one-shots aren't collected here, making me a little worried where and if they'll turn up.

The Flash Vol. 6: Out of Time HC

If you need one more example of the Flash TV show's breakout strength, that the book remained in hardcover with the new team is it. I wasn't bowled over by Van Jensen and Robert Venditti's Green Lantern Corps, so I have some apprehension about what they'll do on Flash (I'm overdue to read their first collection), but of course I won't miss this one given who it introduces (it's a curious decision DC makes not to use the character's name in the marketing copy).

Earth 2: World’s End Vol. 1 TP

Surprisingly, the first Earth 2: World's End volume only collects issues #1-11 (so says the solicitations), when the first Futures End volume collects issues #0-17 and the first Batman Eternal volume has issues #1-21. I guess starting a little later, Earth 2 has less ground to cover to fill a couple volumes, and it is about $10 cheaper per volume than the others. But, given that we know per Batman Eternal that DC can squeeze about double the amount of issues into a trade, I'd have preferred they just collected all of Earth 2: World's End at once.

JLA Vol. 7 TP

Some of my favorite stories from JLA were collected in the previous volume, Joe Kelly's Obsidian Age storyline. In Vol. 7, though, notably, I think Kelly starts taking more chances, with the Batman/Wonder Woman romance, some politically-charged storylines, Martian Manhunter seemingly going rogue, and so on. If you liked the last one, I recommend this one too.

Issues #91-93 are by Dennis O'Neil, beginning the rotating creative teams era of JLA. Those three issues have never before been collected, but the next story, "Tenth Circle" by John Byrne and Chris Claremont, has been collected, as have most of the issues until the series end at #125. Given the lack of a consistent team, and that these remaining issues aren't as well regarded, I wonder if this might not be the last big JLA collection.

JSA Omnibus Vol. 3 HC

I do appreciate DC going all in with these JSA Omnibus collections, though these last issues, including the very long "Thy Kingdom Come" story, are some of my least favorite. If I bought Vols. 1 and 2, I might not buy Vol. 3.

Batman Adventures Vol. 2 TP

I'd have overlooked this one entirely, except that DC points out it includes Harley Quinn's first comics appearance. I'm not sure that's a "thing" necessarily -- it's a comic based on the cartoon, so of course the cartoon characters would appear; more notable to me is Harley's first in-continuity comics appearance, not the first time her ink met the paper. Still, given Harley's current popularity I'm sure this is a draw.

So that's what jumped out at me in this multiversal morass of a month -- what will you be picking up?

Review: Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 4: Gods and Monsters trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 4: Gods and Monsters does double-duty, both serving to introduce the villain du jour of the next big Green Lantern epic, and also presenting the title's new direction under writer Justin Jordan. Unfortunately, the title is only marginally lifted by each, and what has always been a struggling title in the Green Lantern franchise becomes more so with this volume. The pending cancellations of Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns might be somewhat surprising, but the cancellation of Green Lantern: New Guardians really is not.

Review: Transformers vs. GI Joe Vol. 1 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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

One needs to only look at the Amazon reviews for Transformers vs. GI Joe to see how divisive it is: one is five stars, the other is one star, and each warns the reader not to pay attention to the other. Depending on who you ask, it’s either one of the most clever and unique projects either franchise has ever engaged in (which is my opinion), or it’s a childish mess not worth the paper it’s printed on.

This is indicative of a trend I hadn’t really considered until recently: for many GI Joe and Transformers fans, the only comics they read are the ones from their franchises. The non-traditional More Than Meets the Eye and female-centric Windblade have broadened the horizons of toy tie-in comics, but Transformers vs. GI Joe might be a step too far for people who just want to see Optimus Prime team up with Snake-Eyes. It’s quite telling that not only does said team-up not occur in this book, but the plot completely prevents it.

Review: Greeen Lantern Corps Vol. 4: Rebuild trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 19, 2015

I am maybe overly picky about my Green Lantern Corps titles, given that the Peter Tomasi/Patrick Gleason run on the title ranks as some of my favorite comics ever. That said, it was always going to be tough for new series writers Van Jensen and Robert Venditti, with artist Bernard Chang, to really wow me with Green Lantern Corps Vol. 4: Rebuild. Indeed I did not love this book and found it less strong than Venditti's Green Lantern Vol. 4: Dark Days, but I liked it enough to keep reading up to the book's cancellation later this year.

[Review contains spoilers]

I fully recognize artist Chang's long career in the comics industry and the legion of fans of his work. Without intending to take away from that, I have to say that one of the major drawbacks of Rebuild for me was the art. Characters are neither poorly drawn nor disproportionate, but Chang's style has a simplicity and animation that I simply didn't like in portraying the Corps characters (Gleason, arguably, has a similar sparse and animated style, but with more "grit," giving the art an extra punch).

Review: Green Lantern Vol. 4: Dark Days hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

When Geoff Johns's run ended on Green Lantern, I took a little hiatus from the title. For one, I wanted to properly recognize and process the end of a run I'd been reading for almost 10 years, one which really changed the whole landscape of the DC Comics universe in its wake. For another, Green Lantern and its related titles in the run-up to the conclusion had seen a number of inter-series crossovers -- no less than two in a row at the end, deservedly or not -- and I needed to let go some of that event fatigue, especially since the new Lantern titles would also almost immediately feature a crossover, the first of quite a few.

It is, counterintuitively, DC Comics's announcement of the cancellation of almost all of the Green Lantern titles that has brought me back. My event fatigue had waned (and my interest grown, with the new Green Lantern/New Gods crossover "Godhead"), and the fact that if I started reading now, there would indeed be an end sooner than ten years from now was a great panacea. And so, I cracked open Robert Venditti's Green Lantern Vol. 4: Dark Days.

Review: Transformers: Windblade trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

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

Ever since Transformers introduced female robots back in the episode “The Search for Alpha Trion” from the original series, their existence has posed a conundrum for writers. After a long time of pretty much just ignoring it, Simon Furman introduced Arcee into the IDW Transformers universe as a “regular” Cybertronian converted into a “female.” This launched quite the controversy about transgender awareness and even questioning the logic of gender amongst mechanical beings. (Furman even got involved but has since made peace.)

Thus the Camiens were introduced in Dark Cybertron: a splinter race of female Cybertronians who split off genetically eons ago and who are responsible for taking care of the city-sized Titan robots. Metroplex, the most famous of the Titans, ended up crashing to Cybertron’s surface and becoming the new major settlement. With him came Windblade the Cityspeaker, title character of Mairghread Scott's collected miniseries Transformers: Windblade.

Review: Superman Unchained deluxe hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 12, 2015

To the question of how largely-Batman-scribe Scott Snyder might do writing a Superman story, the answer is quite stupendously. I worried about Superman Unchained mainly because of the back-and-forth as to whether the book was a series or miniseries, fearing the final product might lack cohesiveness or resolution, but those concerned were all unfounded.

As DC Comics's representative Superman special in honor of Superman's 75th birthday, Snyder tells a story that takes into account Superman's 75 years without being bogged down by them. Indeed Snyder's story is nicely subversive, even, in the way it pulls apart the intentions for the Superman character when he was created in 1938, where he's come since, and what today's Superman might mean instead. Further, Snyder writes an intelligent, capable, but still young New 52 Superman, and also writes one of the best Lois Lanes in a while -- equally intelligent, equally capable. Superman's familiar supporting characters are all here -- Lois, Perry, Jimmy, Lex -- such to make this book plenty accessible even to a casual comics fan.

Review: Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Vol. 6 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, January 08, 2015

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

The sixth volume of Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye is both a return to form after Dark Cybertron and a shake-up of the status quo. Being two things at once is a key theme in this trade, which deals with parallel universe duplicates, possible betrayals and changes of allegiance. It’s all fitting given that we’re talking about robots that turn into tanks, jets and cassette tapes. The Transformers titles all skipped six months ahead after Dark Cybertron but it fell to More Than Meets the Eye to explain the major plot element: Megatron’s assumption of command of the Lost Light as an Autobot.

Review: Batwoman Vol. 5: Webs trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 05, 2015

After Manhunter ended, if writer Marc Andreyko's immediate next project had been creating Batwoman Kate Kane, I probably wouldn't have much to complain about for Batwoman Vol. 5: Webs. At no point here do I think Andreyko has written Batwoman poorly; indeed it's clear to see elements of Manhunter inspiring Batwoman, which might not be to everyone's tastes but were to mine. And like Manhunter, Andreyko populates Batwoman with a more diverse cast even than Greg Rucka, JH Williams, and Hayden Blackman did before him, which is nice to see in any comic.

At the same time, the story Andreyko tells is more pedestrian than what came before; it has great focus on and development for Kate, but the villains and conflict leave much to be desired. There's a bevy of artists here, some whom do better work than others (including a welcome cameo by Francis Manapul), but none that offer the sustained, ground-breaking vision that Williams brought to the book's art. Also the book's trademark special effects in coloring and the like are gone, something I'm sad to see sacrificed simply because of a creative team change. For all of these reasons, this is a good effort by Andreyko but not one of the Batwoman title's strongest outings.

Review: Batwoman Vol. 4: This Blood is Thick hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Friday, January 02, 2015

When I reviewed Batwoman Vol. 3, I predicted it might be the best of the bunch (or at least the last best of the bunch). That prediction has held out. Batwoman Vol. 4: This Blood is Thick certainly has characterization and intrigue to spare, but the absence of JH Williams on art duties in favor of a bevy of guest-artists affects the book significantly; it is by no means bad, for the most part, but it is lesser than some of its predecessors. There's also no disguising the damaging effect that the volume's anti-climactic ending (caused by writers Williams and Hayden Blackman's sudden departure) has on the story.

Part 2: Planetary Omnibus review (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

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

Major spoilers lie ahead, so if you’re unfamiliar with the full narrative, you may want to skip this review. Don't miss part one of the review.

There’s a definite shift between issues #12 and #13 in the Planetary Omnibus, the point where any idea of a bi-monthly schedule being maintained was given up. Twelve issues of initial world-building set up the reveal that the Fourth Man has been Elijah Snow this entire time. Mindwiped at the behest of the Four in exchange for the survival of his team, Snow transitions from a newcomer narrator into a master planner. Crucial details about the origins of all three team members explain the Planetary team’s dynamics. Snow was an American Century Baby mentored by Sherlock Holmes; it’s actually a bit of a shock to have the real Holmes and Count Dracula appear instead of the stand-ins this series has previously used, but they provide some extra credibility to Snow’s background.