Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 7: Last Call trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 29, 2016

In the unique way that serial fiction works, I praised the previous volume of Red Hood and the Outlaws for telling a bold, risk-taking Starfire story, and then Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 7: Last Call reverses or mitigates those very risks. Had Vols. 6 and 7 been collected together, I might not have been so effusive in my praise, demonstrating that it's even the sometimes-arbitrary dividing lines between books that can make or break them.

I figured that given that Scott Lobdell takes up this series again with Red Hood/Arsenal almost immediately, this book would flow naturally into the next. Instead, Last Call starts strongly but ends very rushed, which might explain in part the quick wrap up of Starfire's storyline. This is not unfortunately the best this title has been, which is shame after Vol. 6's strong showing.

DC Trade Solicitations for November 2016 - Flash by Mark Waid, Ostrander Suicide Squad Vol. 5, Legends of Tomorrow Firestorm, Metal Men, and Metamorpho, Batman: Death and the Maidens Deluxe

Friday, August 26, 2016

We're looking at the DC Comics November 2016 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations today. The big one, coming for a couple months now, is the first Flash by Mark Waid collection, including Annual crossovers and Flash: Born to Run, leading into next volume's Return of Barry Allen. I'm glad too to see new Suicide Squad by Ostrander/Yale and Birds of Prey by Chuck Dixon volumes. We also see the end of Harley Quinn and Deathstroke before each is relaunched for Rebirth.

Step right up and let's see what we've got:

Flash by Mark Waid Book One TP

The monthly solicitation listing for this adheres pretty well to what we've heard so far: Waid's Flash Special, issues #62-68, and Flash Annual #4-5. The latter two are Armageddon 2001 and Eclipso: The Darkness Within tie-ins respectively. A note in the solicitation says "montage cover," which I'm curious to see.

Birds of Prey Vol. 3 TP

I noticed these new Chuck Dixon Birds of Prey collections in the comics shop the other day and the fluorescent spines are really cool; they capture the pop 1990s world-traveling aesthetic of this book, in my opinion. This particular collection includes Birds of Prey #12-21 and Nightwing #45-46; if there was any concern that the "Hunt for Oracle" crossover wouldn't entirely be in here, it is. Also within, a trip to Apokolips and Catwoman, Robin Tim Drake, the Joker, and Power Girl.

Suicide Squad Vol. 5: Apokolips Now TP

The next collection of Suicide Squad by John Ostrander and Kim Yale, following the "Janus Directive" crossover, sees the team sent to Apokolips. Hard to believe, and wonderful, that we're on volume 5 of this now, when once we were stuck with a canceled "Nightshade Odyssey."

Firestorm: The Nuclear Man -- United We Fall TP
Metal Men: Full Metal Jacket TP
Metamorpho: Two Worlds, One Destiny TP

Three more collections of the Legends of Tomorrow series. In some respects, new tales of heroes overlooked or left behind by the New 52 is now overshadowed by what Rebirth may bring. On the other hand, I'm plenty curious how, for instance, Metamorpho Rex Mason ties in to Justice League's Element Woman or the business they had with the Metal Men, assuming these miniseries reflect current continuity. If they're "just stories" of these characters, no offense but I'll wait for the versions that'll stick.

Batman: Death and the Maidens Deluxe Edition HC

I still clearly remember staying up all night to read Greg Rucka's Death and the Maidens, his especially harrowing tale of Batman and Ra's al Ghul. If you haven't read it, I can't recommend enough this deluxe edition, which should reprint wonderfully Klaus Janson's artwork. This is supposed to also include unused art and sketches.

Deathstroke Vol. 4: Family Business TP

The end of James Bonny's Deathstroke series before Rebirth, collecting issues #17-20 and the Annual #2, which was written by Phil Hester.

Harley Quinn Vol. 6: Black, White and Red All Over HC

Collects Harley Quinn #26-30, the final collection of the series before Rebirth, in which Harley fights some marvelous new character called Redtool.

JLA Vol. 9 TP

JLA Vol. 9 is a hefty collection and an interesting one for fans of this era. Not only do you have Kurt Busiek's "Crime Syndicate of America" eight-parter (which continues from JLA/Avengers, of all things), but then also Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg's Identity Crisis tie-in and Bob Harras's Infinite Crisis tie-in. The quality ebbs and flows here but again, it's certainly a significant snapshot of the times.

Martian Manhunter Vol. 2: The Red Rising TP

I really enjoyed the first half of Rob Williams's DC You Martian Manhunter series and I'm looking forward to the second. This is issues #7-12 plus Justice League of America #5 (the Bryan Hitch series) by Williams and Matt Kindt with art by Philip Tan. (A recent solicit had this in the Hitch collection, but surely it's not.)

Secret Six Vol. 2: The Gauntlet TP

Collects the final issues of Gail Simone's second Secret Six series, issues #7-14.

Teen Titans: Year One TP New Edition

A new edition of the well-regarded Amy Wolfram/Karl Kerschl miniseries. This was one of a couple "Year One" miniseries published in the late 2000s, which I don't believe were ever meant as actual in-continuity origins -- Green Arrow is another one, which did get a continuity reference, and also Black Lightning, Huntress, and Metamorpho. Given this book's more recent-ness and popularity, it'd be interesting if DC made parts of it the Titans actual origin post-Rebirth.

A small month for me but I've got to save my pennies for those Rebirth collections anyway. What'll you be buying?

Review: Star Trek: Starfleet Academy trade paperback (IDW Comics)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I've never been a huge fan of ancillary Star Trek crews, and some aspects of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy are predictably formulaic. But despite my initial misgivings, Starfleet Academy is charming fun, and an impressive demonstration of Star Trek tonal range by IDW Trek writer Mike Johnson (with Ryan Parrott). Derek Charm's animated art style marks an immediate departure from the realism of Tony Shasteen and others.

Like Gotham Academy is for Batman, Starfleet Academy tells a cogent Star Trek story, but with a softer approach that might appeal to a wider audience (and an emphasis too, for the most part, on strong female characters). Johnson and Parrott take the opportunity here as well to introduce some stylings of another Star Trek franchise to the nuTrek comics universe.

Review: The Movement Vol. 2: Fighting for the Future trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 22, 2016

If Gail Simone's The Movement Vol. 1 did not deliver quite the draining emotional wallop of her later issues of (her original) Secret Six, then Movement Vol. 2: Fighting for the Future shows itself as on its way there had the series continued. Like Secret Six, Movement offers a group of heroes who, if not entirely in the wrong (as the Six often were), have at least largely conflicted motives, and yet Simone managed to wring from them such grace and kindness that it makes their misdeeds that much more gripping. The Movement-centered stories here are great, especially the latter two (as Simone moves from the group's politics to a greater focus on the characters themselves); further there's a Batgirl guest-shot here with surprising bite to it, of a kind it's a little surprising Simone did here and not over in that title itself.

Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 6: Lost and Found trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 6: Lost and Found is a good example why there's such a dichotomy between public perception of this title versus those who actually read the book. Outside, the Ed Benes cover depicts Starfire splayed suggestively across a sports car, breasts in the air, while her male compatriots post superheroically alongside. Inside is a gripping Scott Lobdell story that spotlights Starfire almost entirely, examining her long fight against slavery and bringing her to a wrenching choice between justice and vengeance, not to be missed by Starfire fans.

The Benes covers to issue Red Hood #32 (used as the cover of this book) and #33 don't reflect the plot of the story inside, while the cover to issue #34 by Ken Lashley and Hi-Fi, part three of the three-part story, does. This suggests to me that Benes's work were index covers, pressed into action in this book's switch between creative teams and probably with no input from Lobdell. Ironically, any number of articles online dismiss the book as a whole without referencing the story itself, based solely on the issue #32 cover and Lobdell's (purposeful, I think, but perhaps inartful) early portrayals of Starfire. In this way it's easy to see why Red Hood and the Outlaws gets no respect regardless of what's happening between its covers.

Review: Grayson Vol. 2: We All Die at Dawn trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's an indication of Grayson's prowess that it reminds me of the good DC Comics series of the 1990s and 2000s, interrupted occasionally by profile or "Times Past" issues and it didn't matter because writing, art, and characters were just so entertaining. Grayson Vol. 2: We All Die at Dawn has a lot of that, a beginning issue and an annual that seem like interstitial stories (though everything, of course, ties back in the end). Also this is another deliciously short volume of Grayson, just four issues and an annual; ordinarily that would bother me but it gives the Grayson trades a boutique effect not unlike the short trades coming out of Image.

It's too bad Grayson is no longer ongoing but I certainly can't find fault with writers Tom King and Tim Seeley proceeding to hopefully bring the same level of greatness to Batman and Nightwing respectively.

Review: The Movement Vol. 1: Class Warfare trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

It's rare to read a book from DC Comics wholly disconnected from the rest of the DC Universe, and unfortunately those books usually face the same fate as The Movement ultimately did. I had thought Movement Vol. 1: Class Warfare related to writer Gail Simone's Batgirl run, but those ties are not explicit, at least in the first volume.

Irrespective Simone's Movement is enjoyable and ostensibly political, suffering only from the fact that it skips much of the "how" of building a groundswell movement in favor of the later moral "what's next" questions. To that end, even as it was meant to be a foil for (if only in DC's advertising) Art Baltazar and Franco's rich-kid Green Team superhero book, the Movement heroes still seem to have unlimited food, electricity, internet, technology, and so on. There's a fine tale here of Movement's Coral City heroes and citizens versus a corrupt administration and the police caught in the middle, but it's hardly a realistic depiction of this kind of political movement, if one is being sought.

Review: Flash Vol. 7: Savage World hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

2 comments | Tags:

Monday, August 08, 2016

Surely there's a lot of pressure that goes along with being the writer of a long-standing comics character. I don't envy Tom King on Batman, for instance, having to follow both Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder (though I hear King's doing admirably). In the same way given strong Flash runs already by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns, Robert Venditti and Van Jensen have a lot to live up to.

Venditti has already followed Johns on Green Lantern and delivered some winners. Unfortunately, Venditti, Jensen, and artist Brett Booth's Flash isn't quite as strong as Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul's that immediately preceded it, nor the famous runs before. In Flash Vol. 7: Savage World, Venditti and Jensen continue to try to build new threats for the Flash; I appreciate that the writers don't tread old ground (for the most part), but the villains they're creating aren't strong, so the writers' efforts come off as ephemeral. Compared to copious Flash runs past, unfortunately these latest Flash comics just aren't as good.

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

0 comments | Tags:

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Just before the Convergence break there's clearly a lot going on in the Batman-verse -- Endgame in the main title, side-by-side with cosmic shenanigans in Batman and Robin, not to mention Batman Eternal reaching its apex. As is often the case, Detective Comics ends up the title with the least going on; on another day, Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul's tale of an "Occupy Gotham" uprising might be notable, but in comparison it's downright tame. Nonetheless, following the last volume's equally "street level" tale, Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 7: Anarky is enjoyable and well-paced, with an intriguing mystery at the center, and uses a couple of Bat-foes strongly. The writers continue their spotlight on Harvey Bullock, and the Bullock-centricness of this run might be its chief selling point.

Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 5: The Big Picture trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 01, 2016

Part of the brilliance of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez run on Teen Titans was that the team lent itself to telling all sorts of stories. Robin and Kid Flash offered a way in to traditional superheroics, but equally Starfire opened the door to space epics; Raven, to the supernatural; and Wonder Girl, to a variety of Mount Olympus epics. Part of what kept the series fresh is that the characters allowed it to be about anything.

That's a formula fairly well used by now, but I'm reminded of it in reading Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 5: The Big Picture. After the previous volume by James Tynion, Vol. 5 sees the book in transition back to original writer Scott Lobdell in Vol. 6, with stories in Vol. 5 by Tynion, Will Pfeifer, and Joe Keatinge. These vary indeed from a mystic battle with Ra's al Ghul to a couple of smaller crime drama/heist capers and two space epics, one with a bunch of DC Universe cameos. Though Big Picture is essentially Red Hood and the Outlaws resetting itself, the stories here are blithe and charming and offer a nice palate cleanser after the heaviness of the previous volume.