Review: Aquaman Vol. 6: Kingslayer trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Aquaman Vol. 6: Kingslayer marks the final parts of what's been an impressive 14-part (et al) storyline in Dan Abnett's Rebirth Aquaman series. This kind of modular, long-form storyline (essentially continuous over three volumes) is almost unheard of in this day and age of easily digestible six-parters, reminding of Aquaman's own classic "Search for Mera" or "Zatanna's Search" from the 1960s, or the 1980s "Trial of the Flash" (if not quite that long). Abnett's even reflected the Atlantean civil war in a couple of other titles, as well as in the Mera, Queen of Atlantis tie-in miniseries.

This would also seem to be the last independent trade of Abnett's superlative Aquaman run, collecting issues #34-38. Issues #39-40 will appear in a Suicide Squad crossover volume and issues #41-42 are part of the "Drowned Earth" Justice League event; with issue #43, new Aquaman writer Kelly Sue DeConnick takes over. So in some respects, Kingslayer is the finale, though everything doesn't quite feel complete, and my fervent hope is that Abnett can still use these crossover issues to wrap up some of Aquaman's threads before he goes.

Review: Mera, Queen of Atlantis trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

In his introduction to the recent Aquaman: The Search for Mera collection of classic material, current Aquaman writer Dan Abnett calls Mera "neglected" and "undervalued" by the annals of comics lore. She has long been Aquaman's equal, and even of late a Justice Leaguer, but largely unknown by the general public (though the new Aquaman movie might change that). To that end, Abnett's Mera, Queen of Atlantis miniseries is deserved and long overdue.

It is not necessarily a pilot nor good argument for an ongoing Mera series, though I'm not sure separating Mera from the Aquaman title would be a service to either character anyway. The character arc of the book is predictable. But at a time when the most recent collection of Abnett's Aquaman title is involved in the good but esoteric conclusion of a long-running Atlantean civil war storyline with mostly new characters, Mera has familiarity going for it. The principal characters in Mera will be recognizable to Aquaman movie fans. Further, Mera serves to bridge unresolved elements from the New 52 Aquaman run to Rebirth, something the main Aquaman series might not have had time for but that's a good thing to take care of in a miniseries.

Review: Batman Vol. 8: Cold Days trade paperback (DC Comics)

3 comments | Tags:

Sunday, December 23, 2018

It is another stellar volume of Tom King's Batman. In the aftermath of the wedding volume, Batman Vol. 8: Cold Days begins not with a bang but with a whimper (or a whimper-bang); in as many times as we think we've read this particular kind of story before, King finds a way to defy expectations and still deliver, and then follows with a second story that confuses and confounds the topics at play all the more. Nearing as we are 80 years of Batman, that any writer should find something new to say month in and month out is a minor miracle on its own; that King not only has new to say but also manages to toy with comics as a storytelling form at the same time is a real treat.

[Review contains spoilers]

After Jason Todd died, after Batman was branded murderer and fugitive, and surely a half dozen other times, we know full well we're in for a spate of "Batman can't control his anger and goes nuts" stories before the Bat-family of your current continuity talks him down from the belfry. Such might've been the case under most writers after Catwoman jilted Batman at the rooftop altar last time around. Instead, King tells a story that takes place largely in a jury deliberation room, a story that — while not completely absent punching and kicking — mostly involves Bruce Wayne and his jury duty cohorts sitting around and talking. It is a Batman play; clearly there's meant to be shades of 12 Angry Men here, but also it reads like a forgotten Gotham Central story with Lee Weeks providing the Michael Lark-esque realism (colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser's pastels deserve some credit, too).

Review: Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Nightwing is going through some changes right now. New regular writer Benjamin Percy, fresh from Green Arrow, departed after a couple of issues, replaced with Scott Lobdell. What I've been hearing about that run hasn't been glowing, though a recent interview I saw with Lobdell suggested his run was knowingly temporary, too. Apparently Eric Esquivel was supposed to follow, but DC has nixed that even before officially announcing it. Preface to all of that yet-unresolved uncertainty is Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable, collecting an apparent guest-arc by Sam Humphries and Bernard Chang, plus a pair of one-off issues.

Humphries work has been hit-or-miss for me on Green Lanterns, but I liked very much his seven-part Nightwing story, which delves well into the Rebirth Nightwing's past and also does some smart world-building for the Rebirth Bludhaven. There's little knowledge required of what's taken place so far in the Rebirth Nightwing series; indeed, given this book's length, nine chapters total, this strikes me as one of those "read on an airplane and kill an hour or so" kind of books. I have at times been impatient with these kinds of interstitial trade-length stories not written by an ongoing creative team (see Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon), but given the upheaval in the Nightwing title these days, this kind of approachable, scene-setting story might not be such a bad thing.

Review: Flash Vol. 8: Flash War trade paperback (DC Comics)

4 comments | Tags:

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Fifty issues in the making, Joshua Williamson's Flash Vol. 8: Flash War is finally here. I wonder how much more enthusiastic I'd be if one of this book's major developments hadn't been spoiled by an untimely social media post by one of the creators. As it is, without the glow of that bit of fan service, I find a Flash War that, while a fun read, does not alter the Flash landscape near so much as I had hoped. There is pathos here, but not many answers. I love that this book ties into the events of the post-Metal Justice League Vol. 1: The Totality, but that the book turns on something surely unplanned two years ago begs the question of how far we are from Williamson's intentions when the Rebirth Flash started and at what point, if ever, this book will deliver on some of the questions it's raised.

Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 7: Drain the Swamp trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

We know now that Rob Williams' Rebirth Suicide Squad will end with issue #50, though that still leaves two more volumes (plus or minus a crossover trade), and with one of those not scheduled until August 2019, it feels as though Williams' Suicide Squad will be around for a while yet. Still, Suicide Squad Vol. 7: Drain the Swamp does seem like the beginning of the end, resolving some of this series' earliest storylines.

Much of what is here feels done already — it seems the government is always trying to shut Amanda Waller's Task Force X down, it seems Waller is always yelling at someone how no one can make the hard decisions but her. Indeed, even the repetitious nature of the book's two main stories is unusual. But Williams has written a consistently good Suicide Squad for a while now, the characters real and lived in despite their often-buffoonish nature, a tough thing to do. Swamp is another fine addition, its lapses significantly smoothed over by the knowledge that Williams' Suicide Squad is now a finite commodity.

Review: Deathstroke Vol. 5: The Fall of Slade trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 09, 2018

It seems the chickens are always coming home to roost in Christopher Priest's Deathstroke, and again that's the case in Deathstroke Vol. 5: The Fall of Slade; there's so many storylines tiled over storylines here, so many bad deeds, that it seems something nefarious is always coming to light. The next volume collects Priest's "Deathstroke vs. Batman" miniseries-within-a-series, and on the chance that story will focus more on Deathstroke Slade Wilson than his compatriots, this present volume could be read as a conclusion of sorts — or, at least, some of this series' earliest secrets have now been aired, bringing us full circle by this book's conclusion. Priest's Deathstroke remains complicated and complex, an instant classic, surely due for perennial collection formats once it concludes.

Review: Justice League Vol. 1: The Totality trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

I'm still struggling to define "Snyder-esque." Surely if you encounter a "man of the people" Batman, aspirational hero to the lowest of Gotham, we can with certainty call that Scott Snyder-esque. And it's easy to differentiate that fallible Batman, often blind to conspiracies in his own midst, from Grant Morrison's "bat-god" Batman, always a step ahead of his enemies and always with a contingency plan.

But when it comes to DC Universe-wide epics, the differences are harder to pin down. Dark Nights: Metal, though fueled with a rock 'n' roll undercurrent, borrowed so many of Morrison's concepts (and even saw Morrison writing a tie-in) such that tonally the book was not so different from Final Crisis. In Snyder's Justice League Vol. 1: The Totality, we see shades of Morrison's JLA from start to finish; Morrison's "we are all superheroes" moral is not so far from this book's testament that we are all base creatures who inspire one another to greatness.

Review: Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Hope Larson's Rebirth Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies is a tick upward for this series, delving into some of the previously unexplored "lost" post-Flashpoint history of these characters. Artist Chris Wildgoose is a superstar in his depictions especially of a young Batgirl Barbara Gordon and Robin Dick Grayson. There are two issues of fluff before the main "Summer of Lies" story that are among the roughest this run has offered, and might suggest, ultimately, what's bringing this run to a close. But again, Larson contributes something important and compelling to the lapsed history of the latest DC Universe continuity, and that's very much worth a read.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the "Summer of Lies" story, Batgirl and Nightwing are being stalked by someone related to one of their first cases together, and so Larson tells simultaneous present and past-set stories. In the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, Robin and Batgirl's pre-Crisis team-ups more or less remained as their shared history, but from the New 52 forward, that hasn't been the case -- or at least, they sported new modern costumes and etc. "Summer of Lies" is among the first extended looks at the "long pants" Robin Dick Grayson and "no cowl" Batgirl Barbara Gordon in an adventure together.