Review: Nightwing Vol. 1: Better than Batman (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Grayson fans will be pleased with a Rebirth Nightwing series that, if not quite as powerful, remains faithful to what came before. That cuts both ways, however, because in many respects Nightwing Vol. 1: Better than Batman is about once-reluctant super-spy Dick Grayson finding himself now hesitant to give up the "shoot first and ask questions later" and "consequences be damned" aesthetic of his days with Spyral.

That's a good way to bridge what was and what is, and I hope former Grayson writer Tim Seeley hasn't said all he's going to say on the matter even as Dick seems to put those ghosts to bed by this book's end. In some respects -- like the first Rebirth Batman volume and the first Rebirth Flash volume -- Seeley's story is too easy, and the speed with which Dick is corrupted and then looses that corruption comes too fast, though Seeley handles the "dubious partner" trope better than those others. Again, in a twice-monthly shipping world, maybe this is a matter of adjusting my own expectations for a story; better, I guess, that a story seems too swift than one that drags on.

Review: Batman Vol. 10: Epilogue hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Batman Vol. 10: Epilogue is a controversial volume, the story contents within notwithstanding, because of DC's decision to shunt just two issues of the Batman regular series to their own volume. I do actually applaud DC's commitment to collecting every single issue of the New 52 Batman series, whether written by series author Scott Snyder or not. If I have a criticism, it's not in the decision to collect the stories -- and so if the decision was to collect or not, then DC made the right one -- but rather that it clearly seems there were other places along the way these stories could have been included other than their own volume. The greatest difficulty is how this volume narratively casts the end of Snyder's Batman run for the uninitiated reader who might not know this "end" wasn't precisely how the end played out order-wise.

Review: All-Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

One thing that struck me about All-Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy was its unexpected level of violence. Clearly All-Star marks a Scott Snyder unrestrained, between the amount of pseudo-cursing, his merciless Batman reminiscent even of Frank Miller's All-Star Batman, and getting his Batman back in the cornfields a la Snyder's Batman: Zero Year. But the sheer volume of stabbings, torture, and other misdeeds surprised me, until I recalled that this all started once upon a time with Snyder's Batman: Black Mirror, which came with its own share of blood and dismemberment.

What this most recent All-Star is, in a certain respect, is a return to Scott Snyder, horror writer, which was not wholly absent in Snyder's mainstream Batman title but was surely toned down a little. And Snyder's All-Star is far from toned down; this is not a Batman cruel by any means, but mouthier than we're used to and with little patience for his enemies. And despite all of this, My Own Worst Enemy's themes are hopeful ones; those who follow Snyder to All-Star after his pantheon of "Gotham Is" Batman stories will certainly find those themes continued.

DC Trade Solicitations for July 2017 - Batman: Knightfall Omnibus Vol. 2: Knightquest, Clayface, Batgirl Stephanie Brown Vol. 1, Grayson Omnibus, Justice League: Darkseid War Omnibus, Harley Quinn by Kesel and Dodson

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Time again for DC Comics's trade paperback and collected hardcover solicitations! July 2017 brings us a couple of Rebirth Vol. 2 and 3 collections; in the past week or so I've been reading a lot of the Rebirth material and I've been enjoying it more and more the farther in I go.

It's also a good month for Batman collections, with the "now more complete than ever" Batman: Knightfall Omnibus Vol. 2: Knightquest, Batman: Shadow of the Bat Vol. 2 (which collects some of the same material, I know), and the first new collection of Bryan Q. Miller's Stephanie Brown Batgirl series. There's also Grayson and Justice League: Darkseid War omnibuses, the Swamp Thing: Bronze Age collection, the 25th anniversary Wildstorm collection with all-new material, and more.

And can you believe the Vigilante Vol. 1 collection by Marv Wolfman finally came out?! Got to pick that up if you want it to continue!

Let's see what July 2017 has to offer ...

Absolute Justice League: Origin HC

Joins Absolute Batman: Court of Owls and Absolute Wonder Woman by Azzarello and Chiang as Absolute editions coming out of the New 52 era.

Aquaman Vol. 3: Crown of Atlantis TP

Collects issues #16-24, which is an impressive nine issues (previous volumes were eight issues each, which is also good). We saw the Rebirth Vol. 1 in January and Vol. 2 in April, and then Vol. 3 will be out in September, so a couple extra months between the second and third volumes, though this is still better pacing than we saw before the issues double-shipped.

Batgirl: Stephanie Brown Vol. 1 TP

Definitely deserving of a new collection series, this is the first twelve issues of Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl series starring former Spoiler Stephanie Brown, which was funny and exciting and well-written and had a lot of heart. This gets all the way through the previous Batgirl Rising trade and into The Flood, and presumably the next collection will finish out the Flood issues and The Lesson.

Batman Vol. 3: I Am Bane TP

Like Aquaman, Batman sees a January-April-September release schedule. Can't argue with 25 issues in the first year; in comparison, it was roughly three-or-so years before DC collected the same amount of New 52 Batman material.

This collection includes issues #16-20 and #23-24, so jumping over the "Button" material (though the solicitation for issue #24 does mention the aftermath of "Button," so it remains to be seen how this will read).

Batman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book One HC

Collects the Rebirth special and issues #1-15, so the first two trades and the "Night of the Monster Men" issues, though I would note that it seems the Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, Aquaman, and Green Arrow deluxe Rebirth hardcovers have all been cancelled.

Batman: Arkham — Clayface TP

Another in the Batman: Arkham series, which have turned out to be interesting spotlights on Batman's foes, occasionally collecting some uncollected gems. Interesting in this one seems to be an emphasis on all the different Clayfaces over the years; the classic Detective Comics stories are #40 (movie star Basil Karlo), #298 (treasure hunter Matt Hagen), and #478 (scientist Preston Payne), plus Outsiders #21 ("Lady Clay" Sondra Fuller), Batman #550 (Cassius "Clay" Payne), Catwoman #4 (Todd Russell), and Batman: Gotham Knights #69-71 (Johnny Williams). Being one of the rare collections of Gotham Knights issues, I'd like to hope this is issues #68-71, all four parts of the "Shape of Things to Come" story, and not just parts two through four. Secret Origins #44 is the origin of the "Mudpack" and Batman Villains Secret Files includes a "Who's Who" of the various Clayfaces. The only issue I can't place here is the apparent inclusion of Batman: Gotham Knights #23.

Batman: Knightfall Omnibus Vol. 2: Knightquest HC

These omnibuses are on their way to being the most complete collection of the "Knightfall" storyline ever, with this one including the yet-still-uncollected Justice League Task Force #5-6 and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #21-23 (the latter of which, when it rains it pours, is also collected in its own volume this month; see below). If the third omnibus collects Legends of the Dark Knight #59-61, we'll finally have all the parts of "Knightfall" in collected print.

Batman: Shadow of the Bat Vol. 2 TP

We discussed in my look at the Fall 2017 DC Comics collections that this was something of a funny trade, collecting as it does parts of "Knightfall," "Knightquest: The Crusade," and "Knightquest: The Search," much of which is also collected elsewhere. Still personally I'm curious to read Alan Grant's work linearly to see what themes or recurring images emerge without the static of the other Bat-title parts; also we've got here Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #1, adding to the growing pantheon of collected "Bloodlines" annuals.

Cyborg Vol. 2: Danger in Detroit TP

Collects issues #6-13. I liked the first volume and I'm eager for the second, and eight issues is a nice size, too. This finishes the "Imitation of Life" storyline and into "Danger in Detroit."

Deadman by Kelley Jones: The Complete Collection TP

This includes Jones and Mike Baron's Deadman: Love After Death and Exorcism. and some stories from Action Comics Weekly. As the title suggests, the draw is Jones's art, though for completeness I might have liked to see some of Baron's Deadman stories from Action Comics that weren't drawn by Jones.

Earth 2: Society Vol. 4: Life After Death TP

The final collection of Dan Abnett's Earth 2: Society, issues #17-22.

Grayson: The Superspy Omnibus HC

Among the best things to come out of the New 52/DC You, if you never read Tom King and Tim Seeley's Grayson, this the book for you. This definitive collection includes all the material from all the previous trades, including the Annuals, the two Robin War issues, the Futures End tie-in, and Nightwing: Rebirth.

Green Arrow Vol. 3: Emerald Outlaw TP

Issues #12-17, the entire "Emerald Outlaw" storyline, ending just before "The Return of Roy Harper."

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 3: The Quest for Hope TP

Issues #14-21, so another eight-issue collection, with the "Quest for Hope" and "Prism of Time" storylines. At this point Robert Venditti is approaching something over 50 issues of Green Lantern in one form or another, which is pretty notable in this day and age.

Harley Quinn by Karl Kesel and Terry Dodson Deluxe Edition Book One HC

The 2000s Harley Quinn series lasted thirty-eight issues, but just twenty-five (and the Our Worlds at War issue) were written by Kesel, and just nineteen were drawn by Dodson. This collects issues #1-8; the entire series (including issues by AJ Lieberman) have been collected in paperback.

Harley's Little Black Book HC

The six issue miniseries with Zatanna, DC Bombshells, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Lobo.

Justice League of America Vol. 1: The Extremists TP

The first six issues of the new Steve Orlando Justice League of America series; the Rebirth issue is in its own trade with the individual character Rebirth issues.

Justice League: The Darkseid War Saga Omnibus HC

Collects Justice League #40-50, the Darkseid War specials, and the Divergence story.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 3 HC

Said to collect Brave and the Bold #152, 154-178, and #180-182, Detective Comics #444-446, #448, #468-470, #480, #492, #493, #495-499, #501, #502, #508, and #509, Batman Family #17, and Untold Legend of the Batman #1-3. Some of this near as I can tell is just cover work, so you'll have to tell me if there's anything super-notable here.

New Teen Titans Vol. 7 TP

This is the "Judas Contract" story and aftermath, though still within the contents of the New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3.

Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin’ Heroz TP

Noonan's Bar cameos in the Batman and Robin Eternal Vol. 1. That is all.

Superman Vol. 3: Multiplicity TP

Collects issues #14-17 and the Annual #1, which is fewer issues than I'd like as compared to some of the others on this list. It ends just before the "Superman Reborn" crossover with Action Comics.

Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Omnibus HC

This is said to include House of Secrets #92, Swamp Thing #1-24, Saga of the Swamp Thing #1-19, and Saga of the Swamp Thing Annual #1, which brings us right about up to the start of the Alan Moore run.

Wildstorm: A Celebration of 25 Years HC

Surprisingly, not only does this collect classic issues, pinups, and etc., but also new stories, including WildCATS by Brandon Choi and Jim Lee and by Christos Gage and Dustin Nguyen, Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch (the same as in the new Absolute edition?), Gen13 by J. Scott Campbell, and Backlash by Brett Booth.

Wonder Girl: Adventures of a Teen Titan TP

What had been previously solicited as DC Spotlight: Wonder Girl is now Wonder Girl: Adventures of a Teen Titan. I'd wondered what this collection was supposed to be tying in to specifically, maybe something comics-related; I'm revising that guess now but I don't want to say more for spoiler reasons.

Contents-wise, again this is Wonder Woman #105 (Wonder Woman as "Wonder Girl"), The Brave and the Bold #60 (first appearance of Donna Troy), Teen Titans #22 (origin of Donna Troy), Adventure Comics #461 (Wonder Woman and Donna Troy team-up), Wonder Woman #105 and #113 (Cassandra Sandsmark stories by John Byrne), Wonder Woman: Donna Troy #1 ("GirlFrenzy" one-shot), and Wonder Girl #1 (Cassie special in the midst of J.T. Krul's pre-Flashpoint Teen Titans run.

Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Truth TP

Collects issues #13, #15, #17, #19, #21, #23, and #25, which we now know to be Rucka's last issue of the series, though there should be one more Rucka trade collecting the "Godwatch" issues set between these.

How're you enjoying Rebirth? Any of these books going on your want list? Did you pick up Vigilante?

Review: Batman Vol. 2: I Am Suicide (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tom King wrote the complicated, wrenching classic that is DC Comics's most recent Omega Men, in addition to being one half of the team that wrote the ever-surprising Grayson and the acclaimed Vision for Marvel. So it was rather a surprise that King's first Rebirth Batman book wasn't stronger, something more than standard superheroics wrapped in fairly common comics tropes.

But, wow. King's Batman Vol. 2: I Am Suicide is good. Astonishingly good. The kind of thing one has come to expect from a Tom King comic, and even then, what a book. I Am Suicide marks the true opening salvo of Tom King's run, the point in which King's run begins to distinguish itself, the point in which King's Batman begins to define the Rebirth era instead of the Rebirth era defining it, the point in which we begin to wonder whether we have another Scott Snyder-level hit on our hands here. It's one of these books that when you begin to suspect everything that could ever be said about Batman has already been said, here comes a volume that decimates that idea completely.

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

James Tynion's Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen is startlingly good, in many ways a faithful bridging of DC Comics's pre-Flashpoint and Rebirth continuities, but one that's not beholden to the past. Any number of times Tynion zags where precedent would have told him to zig, creating something that's not simply reminiscent of the past but rather an improvement on it. Artist Eddy Barrows is doing the work of his career, adeptly illustrating all of his pages and offering some fantastically complex two-page spreads, upheld later in the book by Alvaro Martinez. Detective Comics has been in the Batman title's shadow at least the five years of the New 52 if not decades before that, but this is one of the first times in a while where Detective comes off the better and even the more relevant of the two series.

Review: Green Arrow Vol. 2: Island of Scars (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 10, 2017

It's perhaps a bit of understatement to call a book involving a high-speed undersea train heist a "down" trade, but it feels like Green Arrow Vol. 2: Island of Scars rests on its laurels after the first volume Rebirth premiere. Perhaps I need to adjust my expectations; after all, when this title's already done a year's worth of stories in six months due to weekly shipping, maybe there's more time for "just because" stories.

If anything, writer Benjamin Percy emphasizes here the Green Arrow/Black Canary relationship, which I find fascinating and problematic all in one. Percy also explicates John Diggle's role in the Rebirth "Team Arrow" and also introduces a blast from Green Arrow's (previous continuity) past. But it's hard to see how the Green Arrow story so far would be much different without these issues, nor does this book definitively suggest where the Green Arrow title is going from here, and the result is a trade that doesn't quite feel complete.

Review: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Vol. 1: Who is Oracle? (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Julie and Shawna Benson's Rebirth Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Vol. 1: Who is Oracle? is satisfactorily in the style of Birds of Prey past, with especially funny interplay between Batgirl Barbara Gordon and Black Canary Dinah Lance. It's an enjoyable but not necessarily ground-breaking Birds of Prey tale, at least until the fifth part, when the whole thing cracks wide open and becomes a maniacal meta-commentary on Oracle's role or lack thereof in the New 52. Hints of this wackiness crop up before that point, suggesting this is really the tone the Bensons are going for; a lot of Oracle is devoted to setting up the "new" Birds of Prey team, and I'm eager to see what the writers do "unleashed" now that introductions are out of the way.

Review: Batgirl Vol. 2: Family Business trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 03, 2017

From the first pages of Batgirl Vol. 2: Family Business, one can clearly see a comic coming into its own. The very origins of DC Comics' DC You era begin and end with Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr's Batgirl series, and it's only right that this title's first DC You volume should up the ante in "Batgirl-ness." This is most apparent in Tarr's use of the super deformed style and other manga tropes to express the characters' emotions, not nearly so pronounced in the previous volume, as well as letterer Steve Wands's word balloons sans black borders. Batgirl Vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside looked like nothing else in DC Comics's line the first time around, and that's even more true now.

Stewart and Fletcher's stories range from the thrilling to the mundane to the silly, and at times this title finds itself more in the realm of the Harley Quinn-esque situational comedy than the straight superheroics of the rest of the Bat-titles, not that there's anything wrong with that. On the other hand, Family Business is rife, almost overflowing, with Bat-guest stars, an uneasy mix that works when it works and is sure to be controversial when it doesn't.