Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 1: Path of Doom (Rebirth) trade paperback

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Caleb Mozzocco over at Everyday is Like Wednesday recently described some of DC Comics's Rebirth material as "a cover band play[ing] the hits of their favorite bands." I know what he means; this was what I was afraid of when the New 52 came around, that we would (and did) see things like Robin Tim Drake's dramatic multi-part origin "covered" in a quickie one-off issue that achieved the same result with none of the punch. I've been less bothered by that in some of the examples Caleb mentions -- including James Tynion's Detective Comics, which I adore -- but Caleb's idea came back to me the other day as I was reading Dan Jurgens's Rebirth Superman: Action Comics Vol. 1: Path of Doom.

If anyone's got a right to "cover" "Death of Superman," surely it's Dan Jurgens (and at that point I'm not even sure it qualifies as a "cover" so much as one of your favorite singers belting out their signature hit almost a quarter-century later). There is a moment within Path of Doom where Superman explains the rather complicated origin of Doomsday completely but concisely in a way I'm not sure anyone could pull off but Dan Jurgens. But even with all the right to tell this story, it remains that what Jurgens has here is just another Superman/Doomsday battle of the kind we've seen re-done plenty of times since -- and one in which we know full well that no one is going to die. Path of Doom is mostly action sequences, it is drawn out longer than it needs to be, and it's repetitive in the sense that Jurgens is writing for the issue and not for the trade. This is a satisfactory start for Action Comics but I'm eager for Jurgens to tackle some new material.

Review: Batman Vol. 3: I Am Bane (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tom King's Rebirth Batman run continues to be controversial, even up to and including criticism from some parts sparking a change in the first hardcover collection. That "love it or hate it" dichotomy surely continues into King's Batman Vol. 3: I Am Bane; as the third part of King's inaugural trilogy, this is the volume perhaps toughest on the reader. Even despite plenty esoterica around the edges, the first volume offered a traditional hero versus villain structure and the second a heist caper. The third has Batman set against his arch-nemesis Bane, something we've seen plenty times before, and in terms of linear plot structure spends a lot of time with the two in fisticuffs. That is, there's not as many places here for King's higher concepts to hide, and that makes for greater space than in the first two books where it's incumbent upon the reader to provide the meaning in all that King and his characters do and don't say.

DC Trade Solicitations for December 2017 - Superman: Exile and Other Stories Omnibus, Superboy by Kesel, Aquaman: Waterbearer, Batman: Shadow of the Bat Vol. 3, Black Lightning, final Green Arrow by Grell

Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's not my imagined "Triangle Titles Omnibus," but DC Comics's December 2017 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations brings with it the Superman: Exile and Other Stories omnibus, which is at least a step in the right direction. A whole lot of what's in that book remains firmly in DC Universe continuity, and along with Jerry Ordway and Roger Stern, this book includes some of Dan Jurgens's first regular-title Superman work, making this book wholly relevant right this very moment. This already came and went from the schedule in another form, so we've got to pre-order the heck out of this thing so that DC's compelled to follow it with another volume.

It's a good month overall for Super-family collections, since we also see here the first collection proper of Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett's 1990s Superboy series, a nice thing given "the Kid"'s current absence from the DC Universe. Also from the "have your cake and eat it too" department, despite that most of Sterling Gates's Supergirl collections just received new editions, it seems DC is continuing on with the larger-form collections of the mid-2000s Supergirl series by re-collecting Gates's Who is Superwoman?, give or take a little, with issues added back in that were removed to be collected with the Superman: New Krypton books (or is it? See below for a strange coincidence with the Peter David series). This may, yes, make for uneven reading without the crossover pieces, and especially in the next volume or so, but I do like these comprehensive issue-by-issue trades (see also Batman: Shadow of the Bat), and surely Gates's Supergirl work (inspiration for the TV show) deserves as many collection opportunities as possible.

All this plus some shifts and changes on the Aquaman and Black Lightning collections fronts for better or worse, Harley Quinn and Lobo get classic collections, and more. Let's take a look at the collections that'll be greeting you in the new year ...

Superman: Exile and Other Stories Omnibus HC

This is now Adventures of Superman #445-460, Superman #23-37 (not #27 as the solicitations had for a while), and Action Comics #643-646 and the Annual #2. For reference, the original Exile paperback collection started at Superman #28 and Adventures #451 and went to #33 and #456 respectively, plus just Action #643 and the annual, so we're getting a lot more than before here. This picks up immediately from the John Byrne Man of Steel run, and quite aside from the wrenching emotion and sci-fi wonder of the "Exile" story, this book includes appearances by no less than Batman, Starman Will Payton, Gangbuster, Guardian, the Newsboy Legion, Dubbilex, Emil Hamilton, Morgan Edge, the Matrix Supergirl, Rampage, Brainiac, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the proto-Eradicator, Draaga, Skyhook, and the Prankster, plus Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Lex Luthor, Ma and Pa Kent, and Invasion! crossover tie-ins. The book includes work by Triangle Title stalwarts Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern, Kerry Gammill, Brett Breeding, Dennis Janke, and Art Thibert, plus issues by Mike Mignola and Keith Giffen.

If we posit about the same number of issues for another volume, that would see us through such stories as the "Brainiac Trilogy," "Day of the Krypton Man," and "Dark Knight Over Metropolis," reasonably ending just before "Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite," which could head off a third volume.

Looking back at what's in this book has made me very excited for it, not to mention that some of it factors around the edges into the Rebirth Superman series. I implore you to check out the start of some of the best Superman stories there ever was.

By the by, this collection turns out to include more than the original Superman: Man of Tomorrow Vol. 1 collection was solicited to have, so maybe things turn out well after all ...

Supergirl Vol. 4 TP

So here's a puzzle. DC Comics has on their schedule for January 2018 two Supergirl reprint collections of two different series, one by Peter David and one by Sterling Gates. Both of the online solicitations list their contents as issues #34-43, and both of these, if you can believe it, look to be starting with about issue #34 based on their Vol. 3s, and for both of them, issue #43 is a reasonable place to finish.

The DC December 2017 solicitations describe the Gates series, so we can assume the book in question is Gates's. But how coincidental that DC should be releasing two different Supergirl collections of two different series in the same month with the same relative issues? My guess is the issues in the David collection will shift a little (starting with issue #32 instead of #34, perhaps), but still it's wild to see if you go look now.

If this is the Gates book, then as I mentioned, these just got reprints labeled "New Editions," though near as I can tell the contents were the same as the older books. Again, this is supposed to collect issues #34-43, of which issues #34 and #37-42 were collected in Supergirl: Who is Superwoman?, #35-36 were in Superman: New Krypton Vol. 2, and #43 was in Supergirl: Friends and Fugitives. This book does read fine with issue #43 added in terms of not ending on a significant cliffhanger; the bigger difficulty for some readers will certainly be the weaving in and out of New Krypton. (Side note, I'd forgotten that Mon-El is in this story and that he and Supergirl have significant interaction, an additional similarity between Gates's comic and the TV show, though they are not an item here).

Superboy Book One TP

Collects issues #1-11 of the 1990s Karl Kesel/Tom Grummett series plus the Zero Month issue #0, starring "the Kid" Superboy before he was known as Kon-El. Full of youthful vigor and joy, this is the run that not only gave us Superboy, Tana Moon, Rex and Roxy Leech, and Dubbilex in a Hawaiian shirt, but also lasting characters like Knockout and King Shark. I guess twelve issues is as much as they want to collect in this one, though issue #12 would be a better stopping point before the three-part (pseudo-Suicide Squad story) "Watery Grave" story in issues #13-15. We do get here Zero Hour and Zero Month tie-in issues, and also a couple parts of the "Worlds Collide" crossover with the Milestone Comics of the time (while I recognize this too will be an oddball reading experience, better some "Worlds Collide" than none).

Anarky: The Complete Series TP

As we've lamented here before, while a collection of all eight issues of Alan Grant's "ongoing" Anarky series (including a Day of Judgment tie-in issue) isn't nothing, a really "complete" collection would also encompass the contents of the 1999 Batman: Anarky collection, which included Grant's four-issue miniseries among other stories.

Aquaman Vol. 4: Underworld TP

Collects issues #25-30 of the new storyline by Abnett, and with Stjepan Sejic on art, presenting a more movie-recognizable Aquaman.

Aquaman: The Waterbearer TP (New Edition)

In possibly troublesome news, the book that used to be an apparent second volume of the Aquaman "Waterbearer" storyline has now become a new volume of the existing first trade, adding issues #5-6 to the existing collection of issues #1-4. Also the solicitation says it only collects a story from Aquaman Secret Files along with it, whereas the first trade also has a story from JLA/JSA Secret Files and Origins as well. Now, more is more, of course, but I'd always like to see never-collected material before previously-collected material. Also, given that we have collections of Will Pfeifer's run starting with issue #15, I'm really hopeful for issues #7-14 to be collected at some point so that the full run is covered.

Batman Beyond Vol. 2: Rise of the Demon TP

Collects issues #6-12. I haven't been hearing much about the Dan Jurgens series, which makes me wonder exactly how well it's doing. This volume seems to present some recognizable Bat-friends and foes, but I've long-since thought that unless books like this and Legion of Super-Heroes can demonstrate constant ties to the present DC Universe, they're always going t have an uphill battle.

Batman: Shadow of the Bat Vol. 3 TP

I know it's a disjointed reading experience and I know that almost every one of these issues is collected in a recent trade, but it's such a thrill that Alan Grant's Shadow of the Bat series is getting such swift trade love. This collects issues #0 and #24-31, which finishes out Knightquest/Knightsend and into the recent Batman: Zero Hour collection, plus the "Elseworlds" Annual #2 that apparently sees Bruce Wayne raised by the Scarecrow.

Black Lightning Vol. 2 TP

Another change from the early, early solicitations. Previously this was supposed to be issues #1-13 of the 1990s series, following the first volume collection of the eleven issues of the 1970s series (plus an unpublished twelfth issue released in World's Finest Comics #260). Now, however, this appears to collect more of Black Lightning's 1970s adventures, including World’s Finest Comics #256-260 (issue #260 again?), DC Comics Presents #16, Justice League of America #173-174 and Detective Comics #490-491 and 494-495. Fine with me but I hope this means a third Gangbuster-rrific volume on the horizon.

Black Lightning: Year One TP (New Edition)

A new printing of the Jen Van Meter/Cully Hamner miniseries.

Captain Atom: The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom TP

I didn't hear much about Captain Atom: The Fall and Rise, and this suggests to me the Rebirth ties weren't all that significant; DC certainly got the Death of Hawkman miniseries collected faster. Collects issues #1-6.

Checkmate by Greg Rucka Vol. 2 TP

Greg Rucka's Checkmate was one of my favorite books, fraught and complicated and with an unexpected DC Universe cameo around every corner. This final collection includes issues #13-25 plus the crossover with Judd Winick's Outsiders #47-49.

Green Arrow Vol. 9: Old Tricks TP

Finishing up Mike Grell's run on Green Arrow with issues #73-80, plus the Wonder Years miniseries. What a joy it is to be able to have this whole run on the bookshelf.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 4: Fracture TP

Collects issues #22-29. One of these days I'll start reading Robert Venditti's Rebirth Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps run. Venditti has been on the Green Lantern title now for an impressive amount of time, seemingly building up quite an epic, and I'm curious to dig in again.

Harley Quinn and the Gotham City Sirens Omnibus HC

If you can't collect it slowly, collect it quickly. This is all twenty-six issues of Gotham City Sirens in one volume plus the Blackest Night tie-in Catwoman #83. (Corollary: If collections won't stick, put Harley Quinn's name at the top, i.e. Harley Quinn and the New Titans: Titans Hunt and Harley Quinn and Superman: The Triangle Title Years).

Harley Quinn Vol. 4: Surprise, Surprise TP

Collects issues #22-27 and the 25th anniversary special, so issues coming out right now as a matter of fact.

Lobo by Keith Giffen and Alan Grant Vol. 1 TP

Collects the first Lobo miniseries plus the Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special, Lobo’s Back #1-4, Lobo: Blazing Chain of Love, and Lobo Convention Special, proving Lobo to be the Harley Quinn of his day. I wonder how long until we get to the Lobo series proper, which despite being satirical actually weaved in and out of quite a few DC Comics events.

Nightwing Vol. 4: Blockbuster TP

Collects issues #22-28. I guess I'll know when I get there, but I'm curious what continuity this is in -- whether this is a Nightwing who has or hasn't faced this Blockbuster before. They better keep on collecting those Chuck Dixon Nightwing books so I can get caught up.

Shade, The Changing Girl Vol. 2: Little Runaway TP

I liked the end of Shade where she made some new friends, so I was surprised and intrigued by the solicitation for this book that they apparently reject her and send her on the road. Collects issues #7-12; I'd pick this up when it comes out.

Super Powers by Jack Kirby TP

Collects the two Super Powers miniseries that Jack Kirby worked on, his only time drawing the Justice League. There were three Super Powers miniseries total, the last of which by Paul Kupperberg and Carmine Infantino without Kirby; at some point the solicitations for this book included that miniseries as well, and I rather wish it was in there for completeness sake.

Vigilante: Southland TP

Notably this collection of the Gary Phillips/Elena Casagrande series collects issues #1-6, of which #4-6 were pulled from the monthly schedule and are being released for the first time in the trade. I'm eager to see what this business is that Scott Snyder alluded to of longer-form comics being released as graphic novels; I've long since thought that certain less well-known titles should just skip monthly release and go straight to trade.

Apparently Action Comics #1,000 lands in April from what I understand ... How're you doing this month?

Review: Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason clearly have an imperative in their Rebirth Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman. There is little else here except the White family, nee Kent; to the extent that this book begins with the expansive Superman: Rebirth special, the rest of the book feels too insular, as if perhaps that ought have been the Action Comics: Rebirth special instead. Tomasi and Gleason do perfectly well by Clark, Lois, and son Jon, having inherited this work precisely because of their success doing the same on Batman and Robin. In that respect, even, the goings-on are tame; despite some rough patches, Jon Kent-White is unlikely to ever give his father the kind of time Damian Wayne did.

I'd pick a Tomasi-Gleason book off the stands over most all else any day of the week -- and with Doug Mahnke, to boot -- but as the very first volume of the return of the post-Crisis Superman, Son lacked some of the scope I might have expected. For those very invested in the Clark/Jon relationship, no doubt this book delivers, but I wonder if I'll be happier over with Action Comics or at least once I've read these both.

Review: Superman Reborn (Rebirth) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dan Jurgens's Action Comics has been doing well facing off the Kent family against their various strange doppelgangers, while here and there Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Superman has wondered at the true relationship between the post-Crisis and New 52 Supermen. Much of that is purportedly reconciled in Superman Reborn, the first crossover between the titles, though true answers are somewhat scant. Reborn does offer some concrete explanations, but only to what turns out to be its simplest mysteries; for the bigger things in some respects we're left to just interpret for ourselves. That's a troubling trend -- not the first time in recent comics -- and when DC Comics has so much on the line in service to their universe-wide storylines, one has to hope that how the mysteries are addressed here is not a template for what's to come.

Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Burning Down the House (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

First of all, yes, this is more like it. Second of all, I do wish Rob Williams would at some point write a multi-part, straight-off Suicide Squad story of the type like Sean Ryan's New Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Monsters, with the team going on and completing a complicated mission without any "abnormal" facets like betrayal at headquarters, the brain bombs being deactivated and the Squad "going rogue," etc.

But despite that Williams's Rebirth Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Burning Down the House is "abnormal" (to the extent that nontraditional Squad stories are becoming the norm), it is also fantastic, a marked improvement over Williams's first two Squad books. This is due heavily to the fact that, despite that the book supposedly keeps its main feature/back-up structure (with artists John Romita Jr. and Eddy Barrows respectively), each "chapter" is really just another piece in the same ongoing tale. Williams therefore has a lot of room to develop his story here, and it's emotional, surprising, and well-done. Coming off of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, Williams's Suicide Squad picks up a lot of steam.

Review: Justice League vs. Suicide Squad (Rebirth) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Reading the Rebirth Justice League vs. Suicide Squad put me in mind of DC Comics's New 52 Justice League: Trinity War. These were each the first major events of their respective eras, and there's similarities in the stories' plots and structures, too. But Justice League vs. Suicide Squad has clearly learned from Trinity War's mistakes; the latter book is eminently better put-together and satisfying as a story. This marks a DC Comics trending upward, and I'm eager to see what comes next.

[Review contains spoilers]

As the Justice League uncovers a covert rival organization -- with involvement, no less, by Amanda Waller -- Justice League vs. Suicide Squad feels very familiar, and again when they all end up at a secret base together, and again as the groups pair off and again when half the team is mind-controlled. But Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is exceptionally more cogent than Justice League: Trinity War in its plot by Joshua Williamson; each issue serves to deepen or reveal another level to the story; and the tie-in issues contribute wonderfully without making the story feel padded or bloated.

Batman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book One removes dialogue from Tom King's Batman #10

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Last week DC Comics released the Batman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book One, collecting issues #1-15 and the Batman: Rebirth special. These are also the contents of the Rebirth Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham and Batman Vol. 2: I Am Suicide paperbacks, plus two Batman: Night of the Monster Men issues.

I've been enjoying writer Tom King's run on Batman, but I know it's been controversial, given among other things the wild "love it or hate it" swing in your comments on my review of I Am Suicide. Much of that seems to center on King's repeated dialogue in Batman #10, being melodious or cacophonous depending on your point of view.

I'd originally been looking in to the deluxe edition to see how DC would handle collecting Batman #7 and #8, parts one and four of the Night of the Monster Men crossover, this being the first Rebirth deluxe edition to collect issues not also collected in the trade paperback collections (issues #7-8 appeared in the hardcover Batman: Night of the Monster Men collection instead). Indeed those two issues are in the deluxe edition, with a simple tag at the end of issue #8 directing the reader to the crossover collection, as pictured below.

But hat tip to Facebook reader Jamie Miller, who pointed out that not only does the deluxe hardcover restore the individual issue credits to each issue (they moved them for the trade paperbacks and I prefer it that way), but it also removes some of the repeated dialogue from issue #10. I checked it out and as far as I can see, only one page from issue #10 is affected; see the original on the left and the deluxe version on the right.

I guess that's a win for those who didn't like the mantra dialogue; again, it didn't bother me and I found it effective, though on re-inspection that's an awfully dialogue-heavy page in the original. Irrespective, it's fascinating to think that DC might be using these deluxe hardcovers as "director's cuts" of the Rebirth series, making changes even from the trades; we were seeing this kind of thing a bit way back around Infinite Crisis, but I hadn't heard of it happening much lately.

The Superman: Action Comics: Rebirth Deluxe Edition actually goes the opposite way and removes the individual issue credits from each issue, in contrast to the trades (and this is how I prefer it); it also re-positions Justice League #52, originally collected in Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Welcome to the Planet, to before the start of Superman: Action Comics Vol. 1: Path of Doom.

We did, as you know, lose some of the deluxe editions originally solicited to collect the Rebirth trade paperbacks. Released so far have been the Batman, Action Comics, Justice League, and Flash deluxe editions, and forthcoming are Detective Comics, Harley Quinn, Justice League of America, Nightwing, Suicide Squad, Superman, and Wonder Woman deluxe editions, as well as the deluxe Batman/Flash: The Button. Early solicited but then cancelled were Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, Aquaman, and Green Arrow deluxe collections.

Picking up these Rebirth deluxe books? What do you think of changes being made to these stories as they move from paperback to hardcover?

Review: All-Star Batman Vol. 2: Ends of the Earth (Rebirth) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Scott Snyder's All-Star Batman Vol. 2: Ends of the Earth is in parts more accessible but also more wonderfully esoteric than the previous volume. Snyder still gives us this series's fantastically profane Batman, though the coarsely madcap violence (even for a Batman story) is less than it was in My Own Worst Enemy, making this feel in some ways like a more tonally-normal Batman book. At the same time, Snyder's heavy use of prose and nontraditional narrative style, as well as the presence of artists Jock, Tula Lotay, and Giuseppe Camuncoli, distinguish this book as something more than just the everyday. Here too, Snyder begins to show his hand with overt ties to the upcoming Dark Nights: Metal, though in this aspect Ends of the Earth is not as strong as it is elsewhere.

Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Going Sane (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 03, 2017

It's my fervent hope that after the Justice League vs. Suicide Squad crossover, Rob Williams is able to loose the burdens of Suicide Squad's backup stories and start spinning Suicide Squad stories proper. Williams's stories are compelling and his take on the characters good, but the Rebirth Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Going Sane suffers many of the same issues as the previous volume: it is short and the conflict involved is very insular. Whereas most Rebirth series have spread their wings by this point, mostly all that's happened in Suicide Squad so far is that the team has stolen one object and brought it back to their base -- that's it. In ostensibly one of DC Comics's flagship Rebirth titles -- if the presence of Jim Lee is any indication -- there really ought be more going on.