Review: Saga: Book Three hardcover (Image Comics)

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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Breaking the fourth wall a moment, I'm delighted to be all caught up on Saga. Given that I read the first two collections six years ago and all that time the book's been continuing apace, that I never did manage to spoil it for myself and that there are no more spoilers now — that with the conclusion of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga: Book Three, I'm just as caught up with the series as anyone else — gives me a good feeling of accomplishment.

I have a pretty bad track record of finishing these long-form-but-finite Vertigo-esque series (of which I started but never finished Sandman, Y, The Last Man, Fables, and Mind MGMT, plus others). In part that's because I have to be in the right mood to pick such a series up. Also in part that's because, given all the ones I listed have ended, it's hard to find the time amidst the unceasing drumbeat of the DC superhero comics that I read to step out of that river and into another for the length it would take to read the series as a whole — because at this point if I'm going to read one of those series, I might as well binge.

DC Trade Solicitations for February 2020 - Event Leviathan, Batman: Universe by Bendis, Alfred Pennyworth TP, Batman: Creature of the Night by Busiek, Year of the Villain Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman: Cheetah, Batman by Marv Wolfman

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Again we've got a pretty small month with the DC Comics February 2020 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations, a few books smaller even than last month's "small month." Brian Michael Bendis' Event Leviathan is my big one this time, but then aside from the "Year of the Villain"-tied Harley Quinn Vol. 4, there's nearly nothing in terms of "regular series" collections. Bendis' Batman: Universe is also of interest, but in the main, not a whole lot here.

I thought previous rumors about DC winnowing down their collections output might have been overblown, but indeed things have more sparse than usual at the start of 2020.

Let's take a look ...

Absolute Gotham by Gaslight HC

This volume collects Brian Augustyn's Gotham by Gaslight, considered the first Elseworld (and now an animated movie), along with the sequel, Master of the Future. Also included is the Countdown Special: The Search for Ray Palmer: Gotham by Gaslight Special, from the much maligned "Countdown to Final Crisis" era (though written by Augustyn), and Convergence: Shazam! #1-2 (pretty good, written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Doc Shaner, but with the "Gaslight" characters as the antagonists).

Batman: Alfred Pennyworth TP

Well, that's a spoiler in the solicitation, eh? Anywho, this collects Batman #16 (first appearance of "Alfred Beagle") and #31, Detective Comics #83 (more traditional look), #356 (Alfred as "The Outsider"), #501-502 ("The Man Who Killed Mlle. Marie!"), and #806-807 ("Regnum Defende," an Alfred story by Scott Beatty and Jeff Parker), Untold Legend of the Batman #2 (Alfred origin), Batman Annual #13 (post-Crisis, 1989), Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31 (Zero Hour tie-in, with the Alfreds of many eras), Batman: Gotham Adventures #16, Batman Eternal #31 (Alfred teams with Bane), and the Batman Annual (2016) #1 and #3.

Batman: Arkham Asylum New Edition HC

Hardcover by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, with remastered artwork (as previously seen in the Absolute edition).

Batman: City of Crime Deluxe Edition HC

Collects David Lapham's story from Detective Comics #800-808 and #811-814, which commenter Bob Hodges called "one of the bleakest and weirdest Batman stories I've ever read."

Batman: Creature of the Night HC

Hardcover of the four-issue miniseries by Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon, a "spiritual companion" to Busiek's Superman: Secret Identity.

Batman: Tales of the Demon HC

Hardcover of the classic Tales of the Demon book, collecting Detective Comics #411, #485, and #489-490, Batman #232, #235, #240, and #242-244 and DC Special Series #15.

Batman: Universe HC

I'm curious to read Brian Michael Bendis' first "now at DC" take on Batman, and of course we know this collection of the Walmart-first stories also introduces Young Justice's Jinny Hex. Due out in hardcover in March; there's something to be said for stories first appearing shelved in the "and all the rest" aisle in Walmart now being collected in hardcover.

DMZ Compendium Vol. 1 TP

Collects issues #1-36 of the Brian Wood series.

Doom Patrol: The Silver Age Vol. 2 TP

Collects Arnold Drake's 1960s Doom Patrol #96-107, including crossovers in Challengers of the Unknown #48 and Brave and the Bold #65 (Flash).

Event Leviathan HC

Collects Event Leviathan #1-6 and also the Superman: Leviathan Rising special — some but not all of the later was collected in Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Leviathan Rising, so it's good that we get the whole thing here. The only bummer is having to wait until March for this one. (Hopefully then Year of the Villain one-shot short story is in here, too.)

Harley Quinn Vol. 4: The Final Trial TP

By Sam Humphries and Mark Russell, collecting Harley Quinn #64-69 and the Harley Quinn: Villain of the Year special, tying in to the "Year of the Villain" event.

Justice League of America: A Celebration of 60 Years HC

Includes Brave and the Bold #28 (first Silver Age appearance); Justice League of America #29-30 ("Crisis on Earth-Three with the Justice Society and Crime Syndicate), #79 ("Come Slowly Death, Come Slyly!"), #140 ("No Man Escapes The Manhunter!"), #144 ("The Origin of the Justice League – Minus One!"), and #200 ("A League Divided"); Justice League of America Annual #2 (Aquaman launches Justice League Detroit), Justice League #1 (1987, by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis), JLA #1 and #43 (Grant Morrison and Mark Waid respectively); Justice League of America #1 (2006, by Brad Meltzer); Justice League #1 (2011, by Geoff Johns), and Justice League #1 (2018, by Scott Snyder).

Justice League of America: The Nail — The Complete Collection TP

Paperback collection of Alan Davis' Elseworlds miniseries JLA: The Nail and JLA: Another Nail.

Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe Book One TP

Previously collected in three paperbacks and an omnibus, this is a longer paperback, probably requiring just two volumes to finish. Included are Just Imagine Stan Lee with Dave Gibbons Creating Green Lantern #1, Just Imagine Stan Lee with Jerry Ordway Creating JLA #1, Just Imagine Stan Lee with Jim Lee Creating Wonder Woman #1, Just Imagine Stan Lee with Joe Kubert Creating Batman #1, Just Imagine Stan Lee with John Buscema Creating Superman #1, and Just Imagine Stan Lee with Kevin Maguire Creating Flash #1.

Robin: Year One TP

New collection of the Chuck Dixon/Scott Beatty miniseries. The solicitation says this takes place after the events of Batman: Dark Victory, as I think the collection gods would desperately like this book to be associated with that bestseller, though I am relatively sure the two stories don't match up.

Superman Vol. 2: The Unity Saga: The House of El TP

Paperback, following the previous hardcover, collecting issues #7-15.

Tales of the Batman: Marv Wolfman HC

In hardcover, collecting Batman #328-335 (assorted stories and the "Lazarus Affair" four-parter), #436-439 ("Batman: Year Three"), Detective Comics #408 ("The House That Haunted Batman," with Len Wein and Neal Adams), The Brave and the Bold #167 (team up with Blackhawk), World's Finest Comics #288 (team up with Superman), and New Teen Titans #37 and Batman and the Outsiders #5 (crossover between the two titles).

Wonder Woman: The Cheetah TP

Clearly the Batman: Arkham and Flash: Rogues books must be doing well; probably no coincidence too that Cheetah's about to be in the next Wonder Woman movie. Collects Wonder Woman #6 (1943) (first appearance, Priscilla Rich), #274, #275 (1980) (first appearance, Deborah Domaine), #9 (1987) (first major appearance, Barbara Minerva), The Flash #219 (2005), Wonder Woman #214 (2005) (crossover with Flash), Justice League #13-14 (2012) (New 52 two-parter), Wonder Woman #23.1 (2013) (New 52 Villains Month issue by John Ostrander), Wonder Woman #8 (2016) (Rebirth origin by Greg Rucka). Previously listed among the contents was Who's Who in the DC Universe #4 (1990) (Priscilla Rich by Trina Robbins), but that may no longer be included.

Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Leviathan Rising hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Brian Michael Bendis' Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Leviathan Rising is pretty astounding, about the best this title has been in a very, very long time. If you figure that the Superman titles were hitting the skids shortly before the New 52 came about, and then that decline continued (with occasional bright spots) through the New 52, and then the initial Rebirth run gave it a good shot but never ultimately quite came together — then Leviathan Rising's fairly straightforward and unironic use of Clark, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry is about as close to the classic days as we've seen in almost a decade.

Not to mention how well Bendis weaves in a bevy of cameos, making this Super-title feel distinctly on the front lines of the DC Universe (even despite the lead-in to a crossover event), and not to mention that Superman barely raises his fists the whole book, a throwback to Joe Casey's notable run or the "reporter first, superhero second" of ye olde Lois & Clark. For me, it doesn't get much better than what Bendis is channeling here, extended dialogue and weirdo Silver Age-y twists and all. Brian Michael Bendis is the best thing to happen to Superman in years.

Review: Deathstroke: Arkham (Vol. 6) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

In memory of Tom Spurgeon

It's been a minute since we last joined Christopher Priest's Deathstroke; I read Deathstroke Vol. 5: The Fall of Slade last December and what came out in the meantime was Priest's Batman vs. Deathstroke, a miniseries-within-a-series set outside the present action. So, as I imagined in my Fall review, Slade Wilson has been stewing a relative while when we pick up with him in Deathstroke: Arkham (the series' volume 6, as it were).

Indeed Arkham is a nice initial dip back into the Deathstroke waters. It is on the one hand a rather compact story, with Slade returning to his small padded cell at the start of every issue (depicted claustrophobically well by Fernando Pasarin and company), and the action rarely strays too far outside Arkham's walls, a change from Slade's otherwise globe-hopping adventures. On the other hand, the book is representative of Priest's Deathstroke run so far in all the best ways — dopplegangers, uncertain identities, questions of real or imagined realities, not to mention Priest's swift mid-page scene cuts.

Review: Teen Titans Vol. 2: Turn It Up trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

To some extent the newest Rebirth Teen Titans seem almost an afterthought now that Young Justice is back, given that Teen Titans is now comprised largely of newcomers and duplicative, less well-established sidekicks (why, for a certain subset of the population, would you want Robin Damian Wayne when you can have Tim Drake, or the New 52 Kid Flash when you can have Impulse?). And yet, writer Adam Glass continues to present perhaps the most viable yet of DC Comics' recent, troubled Teen Titans relaunches, working better from Marv Wolfman and George Perez's playbook than most have been able to.

There's not a real villain of note in Teen Titans Vol. 2: Turn It Up as much as this volume is mostly character- and origin-focused. From a team that at the outset seemed like it might be too "hip" for its own good, Glass has managed to find the right balance of new characters, especially, that are both irreverent and likable, and this feels like a feat in just two short volumes. With Young Justice on the rise, the waters are likely only to get choppier for Glass's title, but I came away from this volume rooting for Glass to continue.

Review: Naomi: Season One hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

I remember Damage, and I remember Anima, and Scarlett, and also Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (the movie) and Flight of the Navigator and Escape to Witch Mountain. So I have a lot of appreciation for the genre of Brian Michael Bendis and David Walker's Naomi: Season One, and it seems to me if Bendis' Wonder Comics is supposed to recapture the magic of those Damage/Anima/The Ray days, then Naomi is pitch-perfect. Not to mention the need for more new characters in the DC Universe, especially a young, female, African American character in the DC Universe, and for a book that, for the most part, is less about superheroes fighting and more about parents and children and how people in a small town relate to one another.

Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 2: Lords of Order trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Though James Tynion's Justice League Dark isn't blessed to shape the entire DC Universe in the manner of Scott Snyder's Justice League, it continues to demonstrate itself as the stronger of the two books. To say that Dark is more character-focused while League is more event-focused is a misnomer, because indeed it more often feels like the world could end any moment — and horribly — in Dark than in League proper.

What Tynion demonstrates here — building on the skills displayed with Detective Comics — is how to tell a team story with both epic scope and small character moments, and also a healthy dose of horror. That's tough to do. Justice League Dark Vol. 2: Lords of Order upholds and improves on the legacies of the Justice League Dark and Shadowpact that came before.