Review: Aquaman Vol. 6: Maelstrom hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I'm always rooting for troubled titles to right themselves, so I'm very pleased that Jeff Parker's Aquaman Vol. 6: Maelstrom, his second and final volume of the title, ends very strongly. Parker's first volume was a hodgepodge, and Maelstrom shows early signs of similar trouble, but the tone shifts with the "Maelstrom" story proper and the book's quality considerably improves from there. Parker takes Aquaman on a short tour of the DC Universe including some surprising guest stars, unexpected locations, and revelations that change the Aquaman mythos but good. Maelstrom is a high note for Parker to go out on.

[Review contains spoilers]

Maelstrom's first three chapters see Aquaman battling Chimera, a crazed man-turned-sea-monster. This is already an improvement over the "villains" in Parker's Aquaman Vol. 5: Sea of Storms, mostly nameless monsters with no real connection to Aquaman (including, absurdly, the mythological Hercules). Alternatively Chimera, in his madness, blames Aquaman for his bizarre condition, while also possessing half the brain of a monster loyal to Atlantean royalty, making for some mixed priorities on Chimera's part. Additionally, Chimera's power to control sea life bests Aquaman's, such to make Aquaman more vulnerable in the water and not less. The latter point is not only legitimately frightening -- imagine Aquaman swarmed unrelentingly by sharks -- but also explores a facet of the character we ordinarily take for granted, connections that were missing in Parker's previous stories.

Review: Aquaman Vol. 5: Sea of Storms hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Jeff Parker populates Aquaman Vol. 5: Sea of Storms with a bunch of giant monsters, if that's your idea of fun. Unfortunately, after four volumes of Geoff Johns's strong world- and character-building, Parker's first Aquaman outing pales in comparison. Whereas Johns delivered dynamic, mythos-building stories with Aquaman villains Black Manta, Ocean Master, and the Scavenger, there's little here of note from Parker, just a series of action sequences involving threats unlikely to ever be seen again. There are some cute ideas here a couple chapters in, but they get lost in the book's somewhat haphazard structure.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the third chapter of Sea of Storms, Parker has Aquaman Arthur Curry and Mera attend Arthur's high school reunion. The sequence is too predictable by half, with the requisite bullies and jealousy and eventual reconciliations; it also comes in an odd break from the main action and is never referenced in this book again. However, Parker hits on something that Johns set up but never explored, that Arthur was at one point a normal teenager in this town of Amnesty Bay, and so had school friends and a normal life before Atlantis ever came into the picture.

DC Trade Solicitations for September 2016 - DC Rebirth Omnibus and Specials, Absolute Infinite Crisis, Elseworlds Batman, Watchmen Noir

Friday, June 24, 2016

Earlier I discussed that Wonder Woman Vol. 9: Resurrection, the final volume by Meredith Finch, would contain the Wonder Woman: Rebirth special by Greg Rucka. You all had a variety of opinions -- for, against, and indifferent. DC Comics's September 2016 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations bring with them collections of the final issues of the pre-Rebirth Aquaman, Cyborg, and Red Hood collections, and sure enough, those have got the respective series' Rebirth specials collected in them, too.

What concerns me most here is that I just cannot believe the first new collections of these Rebirth series won't also collect the Rebirth specials (and also be renumbered again). Which is to say, there's some guaranteed double-dipping for those of us who follow from the old collections to the new, and that's shaky ground to start off on. I get it from DC's perspective, it's all about avoiding jump-off points and inviting readers to keep reading; it's just a bummer for the trade waiters. Also, this will be inconsistent, as we see below -- some final trades before Rebirth will have the specials, some won't.

Please see my "Programming Note", by the way (DC TPB Timeline fans especially). Here's the solicits:

DC Rebirth Omnibus HC

I believe there was some question as to whether this omnibus would collect all the DC Rebirth specials and all the #1 issues, or just the specials; the answer now seems to be "just the specials" at $75, though discounted in many places to $50. Unlike, for instance, the Futures End: Five Years Later Omnibus, where the stories were considerably disconnected, I imagine this might have a slightly better read-through experience, at least in terms of the Rebirth special proper to Flash to Titans, and also how DC Universe: Rebirth precedes Superman, Blue Beetle, and etc.

Aquaman Vol. 8: Out of Darkness HC

Collects Aquaman #48-52 and the Rebirth special. This collects, as far as the solicitations, Cullen Bunn's last issue, #48, and then four by Dan Abnett plus the Rebirth special by Abnett. So while I'm not crazy about the Rebirth special being there, at least there's some continuity to the creative team.

Cyborg Vol. 2: Enemy of the State TP

Here, on the other hand, we've got a collection of issues #7-12, by David Walker and Marv Wolfman, and then the special by John Semper.

Red Hood/Arsenal Vol. 2: Dancing with the Devil’s Daughter TP

At least this one too keeps its writer, but again, I think it's a bad precedent to include the Rebirth special.

Lobo Vol. 3: Paid in Blood TP
Supergirl Book One TP
Superman: The Man of Steel Vol. 9 TP

Notable is that all three of these had been cancelled but are now resolicited, which I guess is a "never say never" argument (but I still don't see the Starman Omnibus Vol. 3 paperback back on the schedule). The Lobo book finishes out Cullen Bunn's Lobo series; the Supergirl book (cancelled more than once?) is early Peter David/Gary Frank material; and the Superman book is the end of John Byrne's run with the "Supergirl Saga" and the Phantom Zone villains.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 9: Gordon at War HC
Catwoman Vol. 8: Run Like Hell TP
Doctor Fate Vol. 2: Prisoners of the Past TP
Flash Vol. 9: Full Stop HC
Grayson Vol. 4: A Ghost in the Tomb TP
Green Arrow Vol. 9: Outbreak TP
Midnighter Vol. 2: Hard TP
We Are Robin Vol. 2: Jokers TP

The final collections of these series, none of which include the Rebirth specials where appropriate, demonstrating that not all the ending books, at least according to the solicitations, will have their Rebirth specials. This is both is heartening but equally also a little frustrating.

The Grayson book includes Robin War #1-2; it's nice that these aren't only collected in the Robin War book (a la Superman: Doomed). The Midnighter collection also includes issues #7-8 of the Wildstorm Midnighter series, by Brian Vaughan and Christos Gage respectively.

Absolute Infinite Crisis HC

Collects just the Infinite Crisis miniseries (as opposed to the Infinite Crisis Omnibus) plus script and art extras.

Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 2 TP

I like DC going through and collecting all their Elseworlds material, but I have to cry foul on Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 2. If there's any other Batman Elseworlds that need collecting, then collecting Doug Moench and Kelley Jones's Vampire Batman Red Rain trilogy -- other copies of which I believe are still in print -- seems wasteful, with no offense intended to the creative team. If you already owned that, bought Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 1, and might want Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 3, then that leaves you either with a hole in your collection or significantly double-dipping. I'd have put these in the last Elseworlds: Batman volume, if at all.

Nightwing Vol. 5: The Hunt for Oracle TP

Whereas the original Hunt for Oracle collection included Chuck Dixon's Nightwing #41-46 and Birds of Prey #20-21, this new edition is said to include Nightwing #35-46 and Birds of Prey #21. The first two new Nightwing collections kept pace with the originals, just with additional miniseries and other extras; with Vol. 3, the book collected a little short of the original (albeit with extras); the fourth volume straddled a collection; and with this volume, the Nightwing collections now match back up again (for the moment). My guess is that Birds of Prey #20 is also included here and the solicitation is just a misprint.

Swamp Thing: The Dead Don’t Sleep TP

Collects the six-issue Len Wein/Kelley Jones miniseries. Anyone know if this follows off the continuity of the Charles Soule run or if Wein starts from scratch?

Watchmen Noir HC

I guess now's as good a time as any to release Watchmen in black and white ...

So where do you want your Rebirth specials collected? What else is on your list?

Review: Swamp Thing Vol. 5: The Killing Field trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

With DC Comics's long-standing superheroes, stories often fall into two categories. Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman and so on can fight bad guys in and around their respective cities, or Superman can have an adventure on one or another resurrected Krypton, Wonder Woman can engage with the Amazons, Green Lantern uncovers some mystery of the Guardians in space, Aquaman navigates Atlantean politics, and so on. There are the adventures without, and the adventures within.

I find the heroes versus villains stories more interesting, frankly, or at least I like a good mixing of the two. In Charles Soule's first Swamp Thing collection, most of it took place on the outside -- a team-up with Superman and a horror romp with John Constantine. Soule's second collection, Swamp Thing Vol. 5: The Killing Field, takes place almost entirely within, dealing with the Green avatar's ruling Parliament of the Trees. Soule still writes well the human voice of Alec Holland's consciousness within the body of the Swamp Thing, and you can't beat art by Jesus Saiz, but the story felt plodding and insular to me, too much fantasy and not enough sci-fi horror. I'd rather read about Swamp Thing out in the world than traversing the Parliament's nether realm.

Review: Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 1: The Last Padawan trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Monday, June 20, 2016

I like that Star Wars has a variety of eras in which to tell stories, each with distinct rules and happenings, and that numerous stories can be told with the same characters through the various eras. At the same time, I do find this can lead to a dulling sense of inevitability in Star Wars fiction -- there's only so many stories to be told between New Hope and Empire Strikes Back before all the pieces have to be back in place, for instance.

Writer Greg Weisman avoids any number of pitfalls in spinning the origin of Rebels's Kanan Jarrus in Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 1: The Last Padawan, and delivers some surprises to boot. I had heard good things about this book and Weisman definitely impresses, with a story that challenges in some ways what it means to tell a Star Wars tale.

Review: Black Magick Vol. 1: Awakening trade paperback (Image Comics)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

That Greg Rucka has a new police procedural comic should be headline enough. To read Black Magick Vol. 1: Awakening is to get a glimpse maybe what Gotham Central might have become has Crispus Allen's turn as the Spectre been planned from the start and Infinite Crisis not brought things to a screeching halt -- a police book with supernatural trappings a la Rucka. Black Magick is interesting and shows plenty of potential, though Awakening is mostly set-up; when I finished the first collection of Rucka's Lazarus, also from Image, I felt I'd read considerably more of a complete story than I had here.

[Review contains spoilers]

Awakening's first issue is perfection, by Rucka with art by Nicola Scott and colors by Scott and Chiara Arena -- the colors being almost a character in the story themselves. Rowan Black is a sharp police detective but she's the kind of misfit whose cell phone goes off in her witches' coven circle, pulling her away to a hostage situation. In a fraught 28 pages, Black is drawn further in until she becomes hostage herself. The story is told almost entirely in black and white, until a final jarring splash of color when Black must use her magic to protect herself. The hint of magic buttresses the pages of police work, not the other way around, reminiscent of course of the superheroics around the edges of the procedural in Gotham Central.

Review: Deadpool (2015) #13 (Marvel Comics)

Monday, June 13, 2016

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

The Deadpool editorial team has a history of playing around with how they put out issues. It began with the wedding issue and the finale of the previous volume, and so far this year there have been two ten-dollar supersized issues. Considering that the typical comic book gimmick is just a holofoil cover, I really enjoy what crazy things the Deadpool creative team comes up with, including an entire story being told across an entire year's worth of alternate covers. So as you might have guessed, the book being reviewed this week is a little different than what you might be used to. This isn't a Deadpool trade; it's Deadpool #13 from the current run. But as the cover promises, it's "a four-issue crossover in one package," and by that they literally mean it's four separate issues bundled as one oversized book.

Review: DC Universe Presents Vol. 3: Black Lightning and Blue Devil trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, June 09, 2016

DC Universe Presents Vol. 3: Black Lightning and Blue Devil collects, as the name implies, the four-part story by Marc Andreyko, plus stories spotlighting Red Hood and the Outlaws's Arsenal and Starfire by Joe Keatinge and a Beowulf story (branching out of Sword of Sorcery) by Tony Bedard. I passed this one up earlier as there didn't seem to be much I needed to know about the title characters for their brief appearance in Justice League, and I snagged it now mainly for completeness as I tidy up after some New 52 books I missed the first time around.

[Review contains spoilers]

The concept of a Black Lightning/Blue Devil team-up seemed just oddball enough that I wondered if it could possibly succeed. These are two characters with long (and somewhat troubled) histories at DC Comics, and whose adventures I've enjoyed in the past (especially Blue Devil as the everyman in Shadowpact) but who've never really been associated with one another. That Marc Andreyko -- whose work on Manhunter I still hold in high esteem -- is present was another indication this might work out.

Wonder Woman: Rebirth to be collected in Wonder Woman Vol. 9: Resurrection

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Diamond Previews list of product changes for June 7 states that "Wonder Woman Vol. 9: Resurrection HC (MAY160327, $24.99) has been increased to 176 pages and now collects issues #48-#52 and Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1."

This means that Wonder Woman Vol. 9 now collects the last five issues of Meredith Finch's run, and then the Wonder Woman: Rebirth special by Greg Rucka.

I guess if there was still any concern that the "Rebirth" event was a reboot, this would assure you that continuity stays intact, because apparently Finch's final pre-"Rebirth" issues lead right into Rucka's Rebirth special, sufficient to collect them together. And maybe Rucka's Rebirth special wraps up Finch's run sufficiently enough that it's more proper to collect it at the end of Finch's run than at the beginning of Rucka's.

But first, I'm very, very surprised that anything with even a hint of "Rebirth" to it wouldn't be collected in brand new, newly-numbered trades, marking sharp division between the old and the new.

Second, this of course means that if you were a trade-waiter, hadn't been reading Wonder Woman, and wanted to start with Rucka's run, you'd either have to buy the final collection of Finch's run to get every piece of Rucka's, or you'll have to pick up the Wonder Woman: Rebirth special separately.

This is unexpected; I'm curious to see if any other trades follow suit.

Review: The Ray: In a Blaze of Power trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, June 06, 2016

In all the talk of "Rebirth," I was reminded during a recent skim through a trades remainder bin that a character who went unmourned in the New 52 reboot was The Ray Raymond Terrill. There's been a subsequent New 52 Ray, but I don't think he quite caught on.

I recall reading the Ray miniseries when it first came out in the early 1990s and liking it a lot. Based on those memories and my enjoyment of the Ray character some time ago in Justice League and Freedom Fighters, I picked up and expected to enjoy The Ray: In a Blaze of Power quite a bit. I did not. Blaze of Power is not the very worst story -- the premise regarding Ray Terrill's childhood remains fairly interesting -- but it is an unfortunate product of its time. The dialogue is terribly dated ("Yo! No brew if you dis my crib, baby!" says Ray's increasingly annoying cousin Hank) and the story is terribly confusing; in an attempt perhaps to differentiate the Ray's origin, writer Jack C. Harris obfuscates it much more than seems necessary.

Review: Batman and Robin Vol. 7: Robin Rises hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, June 02, 2016

I'm a fan of the Batman and Robin title and especially of creators Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, and that's kept me hooked on this title even though it's been frustrating at times. Batman and Robin Vol. 7: Robin Rises is one of those frustrating times, where I continue to enjoy the creative team's output even as the story itself isn't up to the level of what's come before. Tomasi channels the limits of Bat-zaniness here, and I suppose that's good, but in the end Rises didn't conclude this series as definitively as I wanted.

[Review contains spoilers]

What's really important here is that Damian Wayne is back. Batman does not need more than one dead Robin in his mythos and especially the death of Batman's son seems exceptionally cruel. The extent to which this would affect Batman is probably reflected in how completely the other Bat-titles have largely sidestepped Damian's death altogether. But Tomasi puts that all behind us, and the "how" is less important than the "what."