Review: Harley Quinn and Power Girl trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Way back five years ago when I reviewed the New 52 Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Power Outage, I praised that the book looped in some superhero elements (in the form of Harley teaming up with an amnesiac Power Girl), finding it more accessible than the first volume, Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City. Half a decade later and I'm playing catch up on my Harley Quinn reading, starting with the spin-off from that volume, the collection of the Harley Quinn and Power Girl miniseries.

The mere existence of this book is somewhat astounding, the teaming of a 1970s Justice Society character with a 1990s figment of animation in a six-issue miniseries in 2015, as sure an example of Grant Morrison's imagined living DC Universe as anything. Though what brings these two together, of course, has not so much to do with the characters themselves as with creators Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (with Justin Gray), whose former Power Girl series was something of a warm-up for Harley Quinn — so in some respects, what Harley Quinn and Power Girl is, is a slice of the Conner/Palmiotti-verse writ large.

Review: Flash Vol. 11: The Greatest Trick of All hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, February 23, 2020

As volumes of Joshua Williamson's Flash go, Flash Vol. 11: The Greatest Trick of All is relatively a better one. That's largely because it's Rogue-focused; Williamson's last volume, the road trip Flash Vol. 10: Force Quest, struggled in introducing new one-note "force users" who weren't altogether interesting, but the return to Central City and characters whom we already care about bolsters this one considerably. Additionally, though rather understated, there's a momentous event in this volume some twenty years in the making, which also raises the interest-value.

As has been this book's custom, there's still a bevy of wonky comics pseudo-science, continuity knots, and the saddest Barry Allen this side of the multiverse. Notably, however, there's evidence that Williamson's depiction of "sad Barry" might finally start to turn around, though the timing and cause-and-effect befuddles. But again, overall the story is better, and the presence of longtime Flash artist Scott Kolins throughout is always a good thing. I left this one more eager than I thought I would be to read Williamson's forthcoming new Flash origin.

DC Trade Solicitations for May 2020 - Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War, Flash Forward, Year of the Villain TPs, Justice League International Omnibus Vol. 2, Legion: Five Years Later Omnibus, Sandman Deluxe

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

After a couple of months of 2020 listings that have been a tad slim, I'm happy to see a bunch of notable books in the DC Comics May 2020 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations. I'm a sucker for a mild line-wide event like "Year of the Villain" — not a crossover per se, just some common events reflected over a couple titles to let you know it's all happening at the same time — and a bunch of that comes to roost this month. There's the Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War, followed by Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen and Year of the Villain: The Infected, and then the next big book after those is Flash Forward, ahead of Dark Nights: Death Metal and Generation Zero. So a lot to look forward to.

And that's not to mention a handful of notable collections of "older" (being the 1980s) material, including the Justice League International Omnibus Vol. 2 (hoping, once again, we might finally see full collections of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' Justice League) and also Keith Giffen and company's Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus Vol. 1 — these are all series I'd have wanted on my extended to-be-collected list, if not necessarily in omnibus format. I'm also stoked for that Sandman Deluxe Edition Book One, though having just spent a year gathering the 30th anniversary editions, I wish these deluxe would come out faster.

Among the "regular series," I'm interested in the "Year of the Villain"-related volumes of Aquaman, Batgirl, and Flash.

Let's take a look!

Absolute Swamp Thing by Alan Moore Vol. 1 New Printing HC

New printing of the first of three Absolute editions, this is Swamp Thing #20-34 and the Annual #2 by Alan Moore and company.

Absolute Swamp Thing by Alan Moore Vol. 2 HC

Issues #34-50, including the first appearance of John Constantine.

Aquaman Vol. 2: Amnesty TP

Paperback of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha's second collection, issues #48-52.

Aquaman Vol. 3: Manta vs. Machine TP

Hardcover of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha's third volume, collecting issues #53-57 (previously solicited as (#54-58) and the Aquaman Annual #2 and starring Aquaman and Aqualad Jackson Hyde, and with a "Year of the Villain: Hostile Takeover" tie-in.

Batgirl Vol. 7: Oracle Rising TP

Tie-in to "Year of the Villain" with new writer Cecil Castellucci, following Mairghread Scott.

• Batman Adventures: Batgirl — A League of Her Own TP

Previously uncollected (according to the solicitations) Batgirl-focused issues from Batman: Gotham Adventures #8-9, #22, and #38, and Batgirl Adventures #1, by Paul Dini and others.

Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus Vol. 3 HC

Collects Batman: The Return #1, Batman Incorporated (first series) #1-8, Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! #1, Batman Incorporated (second series) #0-13, and the Batman Incorporated Special #1.

Batman: Arkham Asylum New Edition TP

Resolicitation of the paperback edition with newly remastered Dave McKean artwork.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Arkham Knight TP

Paperback, following the hardcover, collecting issues #1001-1005 and the Annual #2 by Peter Tomasi, Brad Walker, and company, and Tomasi's story from Detective Comics #1000.

Batman/Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe edition of the Greg Rucka/J. G. Jones graphic novel, with a gallery of Jones' covers (from other works, ostensibly).

Catwoman Vol. 3: Friend or Foe? TP

Issues #16-21 (previously solicited as #14-19) by Joelle Jones. Ties in to "Year of the Villain." I'll still be surprised if this book keeps going once Tom King's Batman/Catwoman is on the stands.

Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child Deluxe Edition HC

Collecting the miniseries by Frank Miller and Rafael Grampa, with behind-the-scenes material.

DC Comics: The Astonishing Art of Amanda Conner HC

A second volume dedicated to Amanda Conner, including Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1-4, Harley Quinn 25th Anniversary Special #1, The Kamandi Challenge #3, Harley Quinn: Be Careful What You Wish For #1, Batman #68, and the Supergirl stories from Wednesday Comics #1-12.

• DC Graphic Novels for Kids Box Set 1

A grand idea, including Dear Justice League, Superman of Smallville, Black Canary: Ignite, and The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid.

• DC Graphic Novels for Young Adults Box Set 1

Mera: Tidebreaker, Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, and Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass.

• DC Poster Portfolio: DCeased TP

Lot of fun ones in here, including movie take-off covers.

• DC Poster Portfolio: Francesco Mattina TP

Covers from Batman and Dark Nights: Metal among others.

Dial H For Hero Vol. 2: New Heroes of Metropolis TP

Second collection of Sam Humphries' series in Brian Michael Bendis' Wonder Comics imprint, issues #7-12.

Flash Forward TP

The six-issue Wally West miniseries by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth, in paperback. Gotta wonder now if the Free Comic Book Day "Generation Zero" story ought not also be included in here.

The Flash Vol. 11: The Greatest Trick of All TP

Flash #66-69 and the Flash Annual #2 by Joshua Williamson, which follows the "Price" crossover with Batman and precedes Flash: Year One.

The Flash Vol. 12: Death and the Speed Force TP

The solicitation here is still describing Flash: Year One, but issues #76-81 are the ones that followed that story, including "Year of the Villain" tie-in issues. Properly this should also contain a couple backup stories from issue #75.

Green Lantern: 80 Years of the Emerald Knight HC

The latest anniversary hardcover. I'll be curious to see how they spotlight some of the newer Green Lanterns, if at all‚ what issues they might choose for Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Simon Baz, and Jessica Cruz.

• Harley Quinn: The New 52 Box Set

An interesting collection that is not, as one might assume, just the first three volumes of Harley's New 52 series; rather it's Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City, the New 52 Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth, and Joker: Death of the Family.

Hawkman Vol. 3: Darkness Within TP

Hawkman #13-18 by Robert Venditti, including "Year of the Villain" material.

Justice League International Omnibus Vol. 2 HC

Collects Justice League America #31-50, Justice League Europe #7-25, Justice League America Annual #4, Justice League Europe Annual #1, Justice League Quarterly #1, and Justice League International Special #1, which have largely not, to my knowledge, been previously collected. With a recent new paperback released (collecting almost three volumes worth of earlier collections), hopefully there's more to come. One more omnibus would probably finish this, but the paperbacks are, of course, something else.

Justice League of America by Brad Meltzer: The Deluxe Edition HC

Collects Brad Meltzer's post-Infinite Crisis Justice League of America run, both "The Tornado's Path" and "The Lightning Saga." The latter of these was a crossover with Geoff Johns' Justice Society of America and also included the Legion of Super-Heroes, way at the start of the lead-in to Countdown to Final Crisis. These stories themselves were very good; Meltzer was followed on Justice League by Dwayne McDuffie.

Justice League of America: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1 New Edition HC

The current solicitation says this is Justice League of America #31-76 and Mystery in Space #75, though that seems rather more like a Vol. 2 than a Vol. 1. If this is a new edition of the Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1, that original volume collected Brave and the Bold #28-30 and Justice League of America #1-30.

Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War TP

I thought at first this a paperback reprint, but indeed it's the first printing. Good on DC but rather astounding they didn't switch to hardcover here. Collects issues #29-39, Scott Snyder's final issues on the title.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Matt Wagner HC

Contents include Batman and the Monster Men #1-6, Batman #54, a story from Batman Black and White #3, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #28-30, Batman: The Mad Monk #1-6, and Batman: Riddler: The Riddle Factory. Previous solicitations also included Batman #626-641, Detective Comics #647-649, and Robin II: Joker's Wild #1, which might still be included solely as covers (or not).

Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

Previously solicited a year ago and back on the schedule again, this is Keith Giffen and Tom and Mary Bierbaum's vision of the future Legion's darker future. Collects Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) #1-39, which collects up to where Giffen departed the title, plus Adventures of Superman #478, Timber Wolf #1-5, and the Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1-3. Previous solicitations also mentioned Who's Who #1-11, #13, #14, #16.

Nightwing Year One Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe-size collection of Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty's Nightwing #101-106.

Plastic Man: Rubber Banded: The Deluxe Edition HC

Way back when, the first trade of Kyle Baker's Plastic Man, "On the Lam," was collected with these rubbery covers that felt weird and wouldn't sit right next to other trades on the shelf. Let's not do that again. Ultimately only 14 of Baker's 20 issues from the early 2000s were collected, which is a shame given the brilliant "laughing on the outside, crying on the inside" aesthetic of the book. This hardcover should collect the whole thing.

Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 3: Generation Outlaw TP

Issues #37-41 by Scott Lobdell, tying in to "Year of the Villain."

The Sandman Deluxe Edition Book One HC

I also just finished collecting the 30th anniversary Sandman paperbacks, and now here comes a hardcover collecting both "Preludes & Nocturnes" and "Doll's House" (issues #1-16) plus the Sandman Mystery Theatre special (appropriate time-wise, though it's really astounding if DC will "add" something to "Preludes & Nocturnes" for the first time in 30 years). Anyway, sorely tempted to double-dip on this.

Super Friends: Saturday Morning Comics Vol. 1 HC

In hardcover, it's the original Super Friends cartoon tie-in comics, Super Friends #1-26, plus the promo Aquateers Meet the Super Friends #1, and stories from Limited Collectors' Edition #C41 and #C-46, by E. Nelson Bridwell with art by Ramona Fradon and others.

Supergirl: Being Super New Edition TP

Paperback of the four-issue miniseries by Mariko Tamaki and Joelle Jones, possibly in a different trim size and with "all-new color," according to the solicitation.

Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen TP

Collecting the four-issue miniseries pitting Lex Luthor against The Batman Who Laughs. It seems now this will also collect the DC's Year of the Villain special (finally, and hopefully the Event Leviathan material too), and "more."

Year of the Villain: The Infected TP

Collects Supergirl #36, Hawkman #18 (also in Hawkman Vol. 3), The Infected: King Shazam #1, The Infected: Scarab #1, The Infected: Deathbringer #1, and The Infected: The Commissioner #1.

Review: The Green Lantern Vol. 2: The Day the Stars Fell hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 16, 2020

With The Green Lantern Vol. 2: The Day the Stars Fell, Grant Morrison essentially opens Hal Jordan's "Black Casebook." Just as in Morrison's well-regarded Batman run, in which he took the strangest of Batman's past-continuity Silver Age adventures and made them contextually canon, so too here does Morrison take a seven-issue swim through some of the weirder concepts of Green Lantern and friends' histories.

The result is mixed. This book is entertaining to be sure, whether you recognize the characters involved or you're simply a fan of Morrison's brand of weirdness. The second volume, however, doesn't have much to do with the overarching story Morrison is telling, at least until it snaps back to that storyline with abrupt whiplash. That aspect feels stitched together, Morrison focusing hard on one concept until he finishes with it and then discarding it haphazardly for another, in a way that feels uncharacteristically indelicate for this author.

Review: Curse of Brimstone Vol. 2: Ashes trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Curse of Brimstone is another of these "New Age of Heroes" titles that I wish had gone on longer, and furthermore, Brimstone was also serving to fill a genre gap largely untouched in the DC Universe. The second and final volume, Curse of Brimstone Vol. 2: Ashes, demonstrates well where Brimstone would have fit among DC's established heroes; with a Dark Nights: Metal sequel in the offing, maybe we can hope Brimstone will make another appearance.

[Review contains spoilers]

Notable among the issues collected in Justin Jordan's Ashes is an annual that guest-stars John Constantine and Swamp Thing, and also an issue with the Kent Nelson Dr. Fate. A number of characters are quick to point out that Brimstone, the demonic alter-ego of Joe Chamberlain, is not a magical being, which I think is important. Though Joe's stories often involve mutated beasts and body horror, his roots are in science-fiction, such that Brimstone can often avoid being too esoteric (as even some classic tales of Swamp Thing, Phantom Stranger, and Dr. Fate have been). Indeed, even in what's largely a John Constantine story with Brimstone and company along for the ride, Brimstone's aesthetic pulls Constantine out of the minutiae of spellcasting into more of a rock 'em, sock 'em horror tale, and that elevates both characters.

Review: Sideways Vol. 2: Rifts and Revelations trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Dan DiDio's Sideways is spunky as usual, and Sideways Vol. 2: Rifts and Revelations brings the book to a satisfactory close. There's a few big guest stars here, but not necessarily big moments, and that may be where the title's cancellation comes from. DiDio shows the utility of the the book and how it would be able to distinguish itself ongoing, and he's certainly created a likable young protagonist in Sideways Derek James, but even with all of that going for it, the fact that Sideways doesn't really pop is an indication of trouble. Here's a case where I think DiDio has done a lot of the important heavy lifting, and now the best thing for Sideways might be for another creator to take a shot.

[Review contains spoilers]

It's hard to raise more hype for a book in certain circles than for Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory, his New 52 Superman, and Morrison himself to all take a part in a book. And yet, while Rifts is perfectly entertaining, when all of those elements together don't make for a particularly special book, again that's a problem. For me, it comes down to that this book's first four chapters (three regular issues and an annual), the Seven Soldiers/Superman saga, feel like they could be totally skipped, and one could pick up with Derek's search for his mother's killer in the last half of the book having missed nothing.

Review: Justice League Odyssey Vol. 2: Death of the Dark trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Remarkably for a book as complex as Justice League Odyssey often is, Dan Abnett takes over for Joshua Williamson without any sense of having missed a step. In Justice League Odyssey Vol. 2: Death of the Dark, Abnett provides explanations for all the mysteries that Williamson set up in the first volume, and that seems no easy task (one wonders to what extent the writers collaborated in the handoff). It is not that Dark's storyline is particularly intricate, but said explanations include heavy doses of time travel and retroactive realities, and that seems a heavy lift for a writer arriving in medias res.

Perhaps because of the necessarily small cast and the closed-off surroundings of the Ghost Sector, Odyssey begins to feel uncomfortably claustrophobic; there are not the cameos nor variety of story found in the more dynamic Justice League and Justice League Dark. Further, where League and Dark have explored a wealth of storylines, Odyssey is still on its Darkseid plot after 12 issues and that seems unlikely to change at least for another volume. This is not by far a poor book, but compared to the other titles in its "family," Odyssey lags behind a bit.