Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Just War hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

G. Willow Wilson's Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Just War ends better than it begins, but this is still a halting start to the writer's run. Wilson ventures into familiar, ambitious territory with "Just War" proper, the kind of thing a Wonder Woman writer shouldn't try unless guaranteed success, and here Wilson doesn't quite make it. The final story, "The Grudge," shows more promise, but this feels like largely the cache of Wilson using other writers' notable characters than the writing itself. In the middle, Wilson tries to do some world-building, but for me the first story hadn't drawn the reader far enough in to make the middle story work.

I'm hoping for better coming up, but also I know Steve Orlando's already scheduled to replace Wilson. Orlando's done great work on this title before, so one volume in to Wilson's run and this already feels like placeholder.

Review: Heroes in Crisis: The Price and Other Stories hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

I hope you won't be surprised to hear it, but books like Heroes in Crisis: The Price and Other Stories make me eager for Joshua Williamson's non-Flash work — particularly, since there's something of a lead-in here, his forthcoming Batman/Superman series. Though Williamson's Flash consistently rubs me the wrong way (see, recently, his Flash Vol. 10: Force Quest), when dealing with the Flash in partnership with other heroes (and perhaps specifically Batman), I'm frequently pleased.

The Price is really just a collection of side-stories, poking (as these kinds of things do) at the edges of the Heroes in Crisis event without really affecting it in any way. And really, knowing the outcome of Heroes in Crisis, much of this book is just prologue to the real fallout, which might've been collected in this book but will end up I'm not really sure where. But again, it's enjoyable, and Williamson comports himself well — as do, by the way, Julie and Shawna Benson and Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, respectively, on the Green Arrow stories included here. I reviewed the Bensons' contribution in Green Arrow Vol. 7: Citizen's Arrest and I'll look at Kelly and Lanzing's in Green Arrow Vol. 8, so most of my attention here will be on "The Price" proper.

DC Trade Solicitations for January 2020 - Superman: Man of Steel Omnibus by Byrne, Legion of Super-Heroes: Road to Legion by Bendis, Justice League Quarterly TP, Tales from Dark Multiverse, Harley Quinn & the Gotham Girls, Batman: White Knight Deluxe

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Unusual for a solicitations month (but maybe not so unusual for a January), the DC Comics January 2020 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations are really short on "regular series" books, hewing mostly (but not entirely) toward collections of older materials.

Still, there is some cool stuff here — kind of a "something for everyone" month. I know plenty of you are interested in the just-announced Superman: The Man of Steel by John Byrne Omnibus Vol. 1. These are great stories, some of my favorites, and I'm glad they're being re-collected even if the omnibus doesn't hold much draw for me; also, if these do just encompass the Superman: The Man of Steel paperbacks, then it's probably just one more volume to make the complete omnibus set, which is always a good thing.

There's also Justice League: Corporate Maneuvers, for which the best I can think of is maybe the hook is supposed to be "Booster Gold's own super-team," because otherwise I don't know. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see DC collecting issues of Justice League Quarterly, and I'd like it even more if these were part of a finally-full non-omnibus collection of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' "Justice League International" era. But I don't necessarily see the obvious draw (though you can't beat Chris Sprouse art) and that makes me worry if the book is going to make it to print.

In terms of "actual" "regular series" books, the two current continuity books of most interest to me this month are the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Road to Legion book, kicking off Brian Michael Bendis' new series, and the collection of the Tales From the Dark Multiverse specials. Nice to see Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 3 back officially on the schedule, though that half of the series has a little catching up to do to reach the Batman: The Caped Crusader books. Also Sean Murphy's Batman: White Knight in deluxe, the previously reprinted Silver and Bronze Age Spectre stories now in color, and another Wonder Woman by George Perez paperback.

Let's dig in to the details.

Absolute Fables Book One HC

Collects Fables #1-29 and Fables: The Last Castle, being the Legends in Exile, Animal Farm, Storybook Love, and March of the Wooden Soldiers trades, and part of Mean Seasons. That's five collections down, 17 more to go, so potentially a four-ish volume Absolute set.

Animal Man by Grant Morrison Book One TP

You know there's only about a dozen pre-Crisis Animal Man appearances before the Grant Morrison series? DC should find a reason to collect those. Of course, Morrison's Animal Man is also great (see my reviews), and this cut-down of the recent omnibus collects issues #1-13 and the story from Secret Origins #39. There's 26 regular issues total, so one more paperback should do it.

Batman: Broken City New Edition TP

A weird, noir, almost non-continuity Batman story dropped in between "Hush" and the return of Jason Todd, but 100 Bullets' Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. I was particularly impressed with "whodunit" in this one.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: Mythology TP

Paperback of Peter Tomasi's first, pre-Detective #1000 story, collecting issues #994-999. After you read it, here's my thoughts on Detective Comics Vol. 1: Mythology.

Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 3 TP

Includes issues #592-600 in the collection series of immediate post-Crisis Batman stories. Includes appearances by Cornelius Stirk and Joe Potato, plus an Invasion! tie-in and the three-issue "Blind Justice" story by Sam Hamm that introduced Henri Ducard to the Batman mythos. Subtly, if not necessarily overtly, these stories take place in the aftermath of Jason Todd's death in "A Death in the Family."

Batman: White Knight: The Deluxe Edition HC

I really enjoyed Batman: White Knight, a smart and surprisingly political Batman "Elseworlds." This has been collected a way or two already, but here it is "deluxe"; one wonders if the inclusion of "Sean Murphy's original inked pages" means this is the uncensored "director's cut" version.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! Book One TP

The first twelve issues of the young readers series by Mike Kunkel, Art Baltazar, and Franco; this continued to issue #21. Previously only issues #1-12 were collected in two paperbacks.

Ex Machina Compendium One TP

Issues #1-25 and two Ex Machina specials by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and others, now as DC Black Label. That's First Hundred Days, Tag, Fact v. Fiction, March to War, and Smoke Smoke, the first five collections, with five left to go.

Famous First Edition: New Fun #1 HC

Hardcover reprinting of New Fun #1, the first comic from National Allied Publications, the once and future DC Comics. The black-and-white comic is accompanied by a variety of essays; though recent anniversary books for Superman and Batman have done well, I am skeptical there's sufficient audience for this.

Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibus Vol. 1 New Edition HC

New printing of the first volume of the Geoff Johns omnibus series, collecting Flash #164-191, the Flash: Our Worlds at War and Flash: Iron Heights specials, and the Flash Secret Files #3.

Flash of Two Worlds Deluxe Edition HC

A deluxe edition of the DC Comics Classics Library volume from 2009, "Flash of Two Worlds," collecting the 1960s issues Flash #123, #129, #137, #151, #170, and #173. That original volume had an introduction by Geoff Johns, but the solicitation doesn't mention including it here.

Green Arrow: Year One: The Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe-size collection of the six-issue miniseries by Andy Diggle and Jock.

Harley Quinn and the Gotham Girls TP

Collection of the 2003 five-issue miniseries (then just called "Gotham Girls"), based on the animated web series, by Paul Storrie and Jennifer Graves.

House of Whispers Vol. 2: Ananse TP

Issues #7-12 of the Sandman Universe series by Nalo Hopkinson.

Jack of Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book Three HC

Final deluxe edition of Jack of Fables by Bill Willingham and Lilah Sturges, issues #36-50.

Justice League: Corporate Maneuvers TP

In a list of most unlikely collections ever, a collection of Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis's Conglomerate story, a team of really second-rate heroes led by Booster Gold, from Justice League Quarterly #1, would be really high on that unlikely list. Maybe the hook here is meant to be Booster Gold, but if so, perhaps "Booster Gold and the Justice League International" might be a better-selling (if wordy) start to the title?

Also, this is said to collect Justice League Quarterly #1-4, but the Conglomerate only appeared in issue #1. Issue #2 was a G'nort et al. story and a Fire/Ice team-up; issue #3 sees the team shrunk and time-hopping; and issue #4 has a B-list Injustice League, a Guy Gardner/Ice date gone wrong, and tales of Power Girl's cat (!?). I'm really unsure about this book ...

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Road to Legion TP

I'm excited for this, but if I may, it kind of seems like DC needed something to collect with Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium, so here we get the two issues plus Superman #14-15 and Supergirl #33. Advance solicitations have Brian Michael Bendis' Superman Vol. 2 ending with issue #14 and his Superman Vol. 3 picking up with issue #16, so maybe there will be other issues here that aren't collected anywhere else, though I'm skeptical.

Preacher: The 25th Anniversary Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

Collects Preacher #1-33, plus the Saint of Killers four-issue miniseries and the Cassidy — Blood & Whiskey special. The series went 66 issues, so probably one more volume.

Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion New Edition TP

New collection of Billy Tucci's six-issue 2009 miniseries, with a story from the DC Holiday Special '09.

Spectre: The Wrath of the Spectre Omnibus HC

Collects the Silver and Bronze Age appearances of the Spectre beginning in the 1950s, including Showcase #60, 61, and 64; Spectre #1–10; Adventure Comics #431–440; Brave and the Bold #72, 75, 116, 180, and 199; Ghosts #97–99; and DC Comics Presents #29, all previously collected in black-and-white as Showcase Presents: The Spectre.

Superman: The Man of Steel Omnibus by John Byrne Vol. 1 HC

I know a lot of you wanted this, and indeed I am very happy for you. For my money, the Byrne Superman and on through for many years is the definitive Superman, so no disrespect for these stories and I'm glad they live on and that more people will get to read them. That said, if only because I've read all these stories plenty times before and own the trades, I'd really prefer more collections of the post-Byrne Superman rather than re-collecting (probably in a new set of paperbacks, too) what's already been collected. But anyway, yes, do enjoy.

This collects Byrne's Man of Steel #1-6, Action Comics #584-593, Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures of Superman #424-435 (which is actually by Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway, not Byrne, but of course these should be included), Adventures of Superman Annual #1, Legion of Super-Heroes #37-38, Superman #1-11, and Superman Annual #1. This collects through the first five Superman: The Man of Steel collections and about half of Byrne's run, so possibly this can be finished off in just one more volume.

Swamp Thing: Tales From the Bayou TP

Interestingly, this now appears to be all of Tim Seeley and Joelle Jones' Swamp Thing stories from the Walmart 100-page giants, plus material already released in the Swamp Thing: Roots of Terror deluxe edition hardcover, being the stories by Tom King, Brian Azzarello, and Mark Russell from Cursed Comics Cavalcade, Swamp Thing Winter Special, Swamp Thing’s Halloween Horror, and Young Monsters in Love.

Tales From the Dark Multiverse HC

Solicited for the end of February, the Dark Multiverse takes on "Knightfall," "Death of Superman," "Blackest Night," "Infinite Crisis," and "Judas Contract."

Weird Western Tales: Jonah Hex HC

Previously titled Jonah Hex: The Bronze Age Omnibus, this resolicited, more intriguingly titled volume is Hex's 1970s appearances, including All-Star Western #10-11, Weird Western Tales #12-14 and #16-38, Jonah Hex #1-17, and Justice League of America #159-160 ("Crisis from Yesterday," with the Justice Society, Enemy Ace, and more).

Wonder Woman by George Perez Vol. 4 TP

Continuing the cut-down of the Wonder Woman by George Perez omnibuses, this is issues #36-45 and the Annual #2, finishing out the second omnibus (so one more to go, or likely two more paperbacks).

Review: Flash Vol. 10: Force Quest trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Among strong things that writer Joshua Williamson has done in his Rebirth Flash tenure is introduce a variety of interesting new speedsters, a new Team Flash (sometimes with morally gray motivations) when we've lacked such for a while. In that way, Flash Vol. 10: Force Quest, an overseas trip for Flash Barry Allen to find new users of the "companion" forces to Flash's Speed Force, holds a lot of promise.

The results are mixed, as they often are with Williamson's Flash. At times Force Quest is rather compelling; at other times, it gets downright ridiculous. At key points, Barry is often the dumbest guy in the room, trailing behind both his allies and the reader; Williamson also keeps up Barry's constant internal monologue of self-pity, even when those around him recognize things are not so bad. Williamson's got a bunch of good, auspicious, interesting things on the way — a Heroes in Crisis tie-in and Batman team-up, "Flash: Year One," and a hundredth issue looming on the horizon — and it's a shame Flash struggles page to page in this manner.

Review: Saga: Book Two hardcover (Image Comics)

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The end of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga: Book Two does not as such mark the midpoint of the series; the last chapter of this volume, issue #36, is neither the halfway point of the first 54 issues of Saga (that would be #27) nor of the planned 108-issues as a whole (that'd be #54 itself). So to see Book Two as a sort of Empire Strikes Back-esque second chapter in the "first Saga trilogy" is patently incorrect.

[Review contains spoilers]

And yet, viewing Book Two as the penultimate piece of a trilogy interests me because, as in the Star Wars model, the second part of a trilogy (and especially its conclusion) ought be the part where things go terribly, terribly wrong. Indeed, given the particularly violent first arc of Book Two, which also suggests Alana and Marko potentially splitting up, and an ending in which it seems quite certain someone is going to die, things going terribly, terribly wrong seems inevitable.

Review: Young Justice Vol. 1: Gemworld hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

To the extent one actually ever considered we might see a Young Justice revival, Brian Michael Bendis' Young Justice Vol. 1: Gemworld is pretty darn good. I'm not sure "perfect" was attainable, and what hampers this book, if anything, are the giant continuity hoops that Bendis has to jump through that keeps this highly esoteric and prevents the book from just plain getting on with it. But this is still very entertaining and undoubtedly what the DC Universe needs right now, and I hope Bendis continues on the title at least as long as the original.

[Review contains spoilers]

Gemworld, as the name implies, takes place almost entirely on the Gemworld of Amethyst fame. That is to say, though the core Young Justice team gets back together here, there's no return to the base, no camping trip, etc., and the continuity foibles are far from explained. Which is fine, in some respects — Bendis surely wants to give the people what they want without aping Peter David entirely — but at every turn this book feels caught in what it can't say or can't address. That extends to the setting, and also to the fact that it seems this team still isn't headed home at least for another volume after this one.

Review: Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 1: Requiem for an Archer trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

After writing close to a hundred issues give or take about Red Hood Jason Todd and his various "Outlaw" teammates, Scott Lobdell goes a different route in Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 1: Requiem for an Archer. I can't blame Lobdell for switching things up, and the book's new direction is interesting, though surely controversial.

The new Red Hood threatens to become what in some respects it's always deconstructed, another bloody vengeance book along the lines of Deathstroke or Punisher. But Lobdell doesn't hesitate to get weird, for one, and for two, the book is rife with unexpected moments of grace. I'm not sure how long this title works, how long another "solo former Robin" book lasts without the team component (because I don't think "Nightwing but an anti-hero" is differentiated enough), but I'm certainly interested for as long as it does.

Review: Green Arrow Vol. 7: Citizen's Arrest trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 06, 2019

I was only so-so about Julie and Shawna Benson's run on Birds of Prey so I wasn't quite sure how I'd like their Green Arrow. As it turns out, they're only on for a volume anyway, Green Arrow Vol. 7: Citizen's Arrest, which mainly just involves continuity-keeping between Green Arrow, Scott Snyder's Justice League, and Heroes in Crisis. There was not much here that I thought suggested a new direction or paradigm for the Green Arrow franchise, perhaps intentionally, but the Bensons' is a familiar but effective story. The characters are on point (so to speak) and Citizen's Arrest is never boring, and it addresses what it needs to such to reaffirm that Green Arrow takes place alongside the rest of the DC Universe.

Review: Batman Vol. 10: Knightmares trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, October 02, 2019

If the premise was that, sometime after Tom King's Batman run is all said and done, that King would get back together with some of the pivotal artists in and around his run and revisit some of the key moments from a "no holds barred," Elseworlds perspective, I think we might look kindly on that. (It feels as though Sandman has already done this once if not a number of times.)

It is weird, no doubt, to do that mid-story, as Batman Vol. 10: Knightmares does, but when has this abstract, post-modern take on Batman not been weird? Knightmares has received some bad press, as I understand it, but there seems little benefit in trying to wish this volume into something it's not. Alright, it's a bit impressionist, but look, here's a collection of continuity-light Batman stories written by Tom King and with art by Mitch Gerard, Mikel Janin, Lee Weeks, Amanda Conner, and Yanick Paquette, for gosh sakes, ranging from horror to comedy, and with a couple of guest stars I think you'd otherwise love to see in a Batman book. Whatever the reason for Knightmares — writer needs a break (though these are surely writer-intensive stories), let events catch up in other books, or King's Batman is just an odd one — I can't find much to be upset about here.