Trade Perspectives: Was (Not Was) Omega Men

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

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

The mission of Collected Editions is to appreciate comic books in their trade paperback format. In a perfect world, this would work as an inviolable philosophy. Unfortunately, trade-waiting is not a tactic embraced by comic book companies. Some are better about it than others, such as Valiant, which has the title's next trade solicited on the last page of the current one. Marvel is getting a little better at putting out trades faster and at releasing softcover versions of hardcovers and omnibuses. DC may well be getting faster too, but in the case of one book, it isn't going to be fast enough. The first trade of Omega Men won't be released until March 2016. By then, the title will be gone.

Review: Batman Vol. 7: Endgame hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, September 28, 2015

At the turning point of an overall impressive run, Batman Vol. 7: Endgame is the best thing Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have done so far.

As a sequel to Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family, Endgame serves the best possible role of a sequel, enhancing and buffeting the first story even as it stands triumphant in its own right. As a Joker story, Endgame offers an origin for the Clown Prince of Crime that reaches deep into the Batman mythos, even as it preserves the mystique that makes the Joker who he is. And as a Batman story, Snyder puts his strongest mark on the character yet, redefining what has been Batman, the myth, into now Batman, the man.

Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 5: Paradise Lost trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I enjoyed Phantom Stranger under Dan DiDio, but then J. M. DeMatteis came on the title and delivered as good if not better on the (sadly mostly overlooked) series. In Justice League Dark Vol. 5: Paradise Lost, DeMatteis's first independent Dark trade, he takes over from Jeff Lemire (and artist Andres Guinaldo takes over for Mikel Janin), which seems to me a much tougher act to follow. DeMatteis doesn't present the Dark characters poorly, but the trade contains two "secret origin"-type stories, and neither improved on the character it profiled. The book lacks complexity at a time when comics need it all the more.

Review: Ant-Man Vol. 1: Second-Chance Man trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

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

Though it's mostly through coincidence, there's a lot in common between Ant-Man Vol. 1: Second-Chance Man and this summer's excellent film. They have the same plot on a macro scale and share specific plot beats -- an interview ruined by Scott Lang's prison record, a job gained by cracking another hero's complex safe, a motley crew of good-intentioned thieves that operates a robbery out of a van, and so on. The villain is even Darren Cross, making his return after thirty years of stasis. Because there are few Ant-Man stories in trade form, Nick Spencer made the wise decision to tie this story back into Scott's origin, the one story casual fans will most likely have read in reprints like the Ant-Man Prelude trade.

DC Trade Solicitations for January/February 2016 - Batgirl Cassandra Cain, Batman by Brubaker, Black Mirror Noir, Grayson Vol. 2

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The January/February 2016 list of DC Comics hardcover and trade paperback collection releases (posted September 2015) is out; as opposed to last month, when we saw a lot of new solicitations of 1980s/1990s comics collections, this month is a little more humdrum (they can't all be winners).

If you've never read Kelley Puckett and Scott Peterson's Cassanda Cain Batgirl, first of all shame on you, and second there's a collection for you this month; also Batman by Ed Brubaker, Batman Noir: Black Mirror, and the start of a Supergirl trade reprint series. But nothing to really, really get the blood pumping, I don't think. Let's take a look:

Batgirl Vol. 1: Silent Knight TP

We had previously believed this to be called Cassandra Cain: Batgirl Vol. 1, though now it's just "Batgirl." That's a little unfortunate -- I'd like to see this better differentiated from the Barbara Gordon volumes -- but the title is cute, "Silent Knight" being a mix of the original Batgirl Vol. 1: Silent Running and Batgirl Vol. 2: A Knight Alone.The book collects all of the previous volume 1 and most of volume 2, going right up to Officer Down. The Batgirl annual that's included has never been collected before, so that's nice; all in all a good start to this.

Batman by Ed Brubaker Vol. 1 TP

The contents remain consistent from the earlier solicitation of this. The inclusion of the "Our Worlds at War" issue will make fun placement on the DC Trade Paperback Timeline. The new solicitation text for this ("Ed Brubaker’s legendary run on Batman is collected, starting with ...) strongly suggests future volumes to come.

Batman Noir: The Black Mirror HC

Previous solicitations had just Detective Comics #871-877, but the new solicitations include #871-881, the entire original volume. There are not many books I'm interested in reading in black and white nor buying twice, but Black Mirror was such a good story and Jock and Francesco Francavilla's art would look so good in black and white, this is very, very tempting.

Batman: Shaman TP (New Edition)

Nice to see the collection of the very first Legends of the Dark Knight storyline getting a reprint.

• DC Comics Presents: Darkseid War 100-Page Super Spectacular #1

Collects the first Jack Kirby issues of Mister Miracle, New Gods, and Forever People, plus New Gods #7. I won't spoil it if you're not up to date, but New Gods #7 is a triumph of serial storytelling back in the day, with events from that title significantly affecting the other Fourth World titles even though the effects wouldn't be felt right away.

• DC Comics Presents: Robin War 100-Page Super Spectacular #1

Includes Teen Titans #29 (Tim Drake vs. Jason Todd), Batman #657 (Tim Drake vs. Damian Wayne), Nightwing #139 (Tim Drake vs. Dick Grayson), and Battle for the Cowl #3 (everyone vs. everyone), all of which rather suggests Tim Drake has some anger issues.

Grayson Vol. 2: We All Die at Dawn TP

Another Grayson collection that's not so long, just four issues and an annual, but darned if Tim Seeley and Tom King don't make it worth it. Sorry all who bought the first Grayson hardcover, but this one is paperback only. Midnighter appears, of course.

New Teen Titans Vol. 4 TP

Collects New Teen Titans #21-27 and the Annual #1, which is still in the midst of New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 2 (or New Teen Titans Archive Vol. 2, which included a Titans vs. Greek gods tale, and also details Changeling's past with the Doom Patrol. This is all plenty of issues ahead of Judas Contract, and still a ways to go until these paperbacks start reprinting previously-unreprinted material.

Red Hood and The Outlaws Vol. 7: Last Call TP

The final Red Hood collection before Convergence collects issues #35-40 and the Futures End tie-in.

• Supergirl Vol. 1: The Girl of Steel TP

Collects the previous Jeph Loeb Supergirl: Power and Joe Kelly Supergirl: Candor trades, featuring the mid-2000s "bad girl celebrity"-type Supergirl.

Not poor stories, though assuredly controversial. One certainly wonders, in the advent of the Supergirl TV series, why DC isn't reprinting the more-closely-related Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle issues. Possibly (unfortunately) there's a bit more obvious prurience to these issues that might help sell them off the shelf, though the Gates stories will again seem more familiar to TV-watchers.

Superman: Emperor Joker TP

Glad to see a reprint from one of my favorite Superman eras (behind the Triangle Titles) though why it's being reprinted necessarily is hard to say, short of the ubiquity of all things Joker these days. This is a straight reprint of the original volume, though at some point I wish this volume would include Action Comics #784, a "Joker's Last Laugh" tie-in, which was a rather poignant epilogue to Emperor Joker by Joe Kelly.

Swamp Thing Vol. 7: Season’s End TP

The final Swamp Thing collection before Convergence, including issues #35-40, the Annual #3, and the Futures End tie-in.

What are you buying? Anything I overlooked?

Review: Flash: Season Zero trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, September 21, 2015

The downside of television tie-in comics, in my opinion, has been that in an attempt not to contradict the show, the comics offer either vague character origins or inconsequential between-the-episodes tales that put all the pieces back where they're found; the ye olde Smallville monthly had this problem, as did the inaugural Arrow digital comic. To that end, I was intrigued by the announcements of both the Arrow: Season 2.5 and Flash: Season Zero digital comics (the latter of which newly collected in trade paperback), which, acting as "seasons," might sooner provide a cohesive story than a series of one-off tales.

Review: Star Wars: Dark Disciple novel (LucasBooks)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Over five televised seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, clearly the show's breakout star is Asajj Ventress. Count Dooku's former apprentice-turned-anti-hero bounty hunter precisely represents the gray space between the light and dark sides of the Force that Clone Wars focused on in its later seasons. The Jedi were not entirely blameless in their downfall, from at the outset accepting the clone soldiers into their midst to warring on the Separatists who were not wholly evil; into the center of this comes Ventress, neither easily defined as an evil Sith lord nor a heroic Jedi.

If a team-up might be viewed as a pairing of equals, then Christie Golden's Star Wars: Dark Disciple -- which novelizes eight unproduced episodes of Clone Wars -- shows the Jedis' station continuing to fall as Ventress's rises, until they meet in the middle. In the Jedi Council proposing to do a very un-Jedi-like thing, Ventress becomes their unlikely, but likely, ally; and clearly, the proposed dedication of almost a third of the episodes of a Clone Wars season to Ventress underscores the character's importance. Dark Disciple feels quintessentially Star Wars, focused indeed on the always-warring-but-irrevocably-connected light and dark sides of the Force. Golden successfully recreates the essence of Clone Wars, and even the novel's peculiarities are wonderfully reminiscent of the show.

Review: Trinity of Sin: Pandora Vol. 2: Choices trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I give writer Ray Fawkes a lot of credit for taking one of the most problematic characters in recent DC Comics history and making something palatable out of her. Pandora started as far back as Flashpoint as an all-seeing Monitor-type character, which was set aside in favor of her connection to the Pandora of myth; this too was put to lie as of Trinity War, leaving Pandora a character with implicit ties to the fabric of the New 52 but no actual origin to speak of, now saddled with carrying her own series. And despite all that, in Pandora's first volume, Fawkes created something fairly palatable and mostly logical.

Trinity of Sin: Pandora Vol. 2: Choices isn't unfortunately as strong as the first volume, which was itself already a long shot. The best part remains Fawkes's Pandora, a Highlander-esque immortal whose adventures throughout history impact on her present. But the book, in my opinion, makes some wholly poor story choices, and as well the book's art fails to buffer the story when it really needs it. Right at the end, there's the suggestion of a cool, different kind of book that Pandora could be, but it's most assuredly too little, too late after what's already transpired.

Review: Superior Foes of Spider-Man Vol. 2: Crime of the Century trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

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

With every new chapter I read of this book, I keep finding new comparisons to make between this and other great books. The first section of Superior Foes of Spider-Man Vol 2: Crime of the Century is Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye if it starred villains, while the later stories remind me of Geoff Johns' work on the Flash Rogues. The trade picks up right where the previous one left off and the main narrative continues through to the next and final trade. This happened for the best of reasons: Nick Spencer was given five additional issues based on the title's initial success, requiring a reconfiguration of the storyline. As a result, there are two fill-in issues in Crime of the Century with different writers and artists, though there's no drop in quality.

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War-Torn hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 14, 2015

I don't envy Meredith Finch, a relative newcomer to comics, having to follow award-winning author Brian Azzarello on Wonder Woman, and especially not after Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman achieved instant-classic status. As expected, Finch's first story, in Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War-Torn, is not as sharp as what proceeded it. To Finch's credit, War-Torn delves immediately into aspects of Wonder Woman's new status quo that Azzarello left unexplored, and in many respects Finch's story felt of a piece with the run that preceded it; one also can't deny the draw of the book's mystery villain. But Finch's Diana feels helpless where Azzarello's felt confident, in a way that makes Wonder Woman less enjoyable; as well, while artist David Finch's work here is not grossly over-sexualized, it is over-sexualized enough to feel like a less-serious product than Chiang's before him.

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 6: Bones hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I finished Wonder Woman Vol. 6: Bones, the final volume of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's superb run on the title, both impressed and a little let down. This is a worthy finale, suspenseful and shocking and action-packed. At the same time, one of my complaints about the fifth volume still stands, that as much as Azzarello packs in here, there's still quite a bit more I wish Azzarello would have addressed. Ultimately, that I'm left wanting more must be another positive sign of this run's accomplishments; I wholly expect a deluxe or omnibus edition of these issues is coming down the pike and that'd be an epic collection indeed.

Review: Imperium Vol. 1: Collecting Monsters trade paperback (Valiant Entertainment)

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

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

Cancelling and restarting titles is a trend that I have mixed feelings about. Marvel’s constant use of short runs is making it difficult to figure out their story collections (Charles Soule’s various Inhuman books are one victim of this trend). Conversely, Valiant has every reason to change its publishing schedule on a regular basis: it only has about a dozen title slots each month. Still, ending Harbinger, one of Valiant’s flagship books, was unexpected, and essentially replacing it with Imperium was a bold move. This trade, Collecting Monsters, is proof that the gamble was worth the risk. You can understand what’s going on without reading previous Valiant books, but Harbinger Wars and Unity are recommended reading to prepare for Imperium.

Review: Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger Vol. 3: The Crack in Creation trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 07, 2015

I never had an interest in the Phantom Stranger before this current series, but it's surely piqued my interest for the Phantom Stranger in the future. Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger Vol 3: The Crack in Creation concludes this title, and it's the weakest of the three volumes solely in its haste to wrap things up and also the significant portion of this book given over to the Forever Evil: Blight crossover. However, Dan DiDio and J. M. DeMatteis's Phantom Stranger has been smart, literate, and thoughtful, giving the Stranger more emotional depth than I would have imagined, and the book's relation to the maligned New 52 "Trinity of Sin" should not dissuade readers from trying it.

Review: Constantine Vol. 2: Blight trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 03, 2015

I enjoyed the Forever Evil: Blight crossover with its wide, meandering scope (simultaneously the best and most frustrating thing about it), and in the end Blight is John Constantine's story. Ray Fawkes's Constantine Vol. 2: Blight collects the series's Blight-related issues, though Constantine is really ever-present in all the various Blight issues, especially over in Justice League Dark.

The incongruous difficulty is that while Blight is decent, Fawkes writes a good John Constantine, and the Constantine-Blight issues have some redeeming moments, John Constantine is one of the poorer things about Blight. If Constantine were Ray Fawkes's character-find of the decade, a wholly new magical con man making his debut in DC Comics's New 52 relaunch, what Fawkes presents here would be exceptional, but by and large within Blight itself Constantine's motivations don't ring true. At the same time, Fawkes takes some edgier chances outside and toward the end of Blight that hint at a better direction; Blight is not Constantine at his best, but neither do I discount Fawkes's Constantine work by any stretch.

Review: Deadpool: Dracula's Gauntlet collected harcover (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

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

When Deadpool: The Gauntlet came out as a web-first Infinite Comic, it struck me as odd that Marvel would pick that format for a story that would eventually have a huge impact on the character. It took only a few pages of the comic in motion to understand why this was done: the panel animations are perfect for a character as wacky as Deadpool. Though it's since been collected in a physical trade -- and retitled as Deadpool: Dracula's Gauntlet to differentiate it from the lengthy Amazing Spider-Man: The Gauntlet -- it's best read digitally to appreciate the work put into this unique piece.