Review: Y - The Last Man Vol. 8: Kimono Dragons trade paperback (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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When I last reviewed Y: The Last Man (some 13 years ago!), I noted that the seventh volume, Paper Dolls, lacked sufficient revelations for a book so far down the line, instead offering a (still enjoyable but) basic Y misadventure of the kind we might've seen way back at the beginning. Y: The Last Man Vol. 8: Kimono Dragons is better on that count, continuing to outline the behind-the-scenes connective tissue between the characters, though it still feels like we're a trade or so away from really understanding what's going on (and two trades, of course, from the end).

If nothing else, the titular "Kimono Dragons" story is more epic in its finale than "Paper Dolls," so Kimono Dragons at least gets one's blood pumping. I'm impatient for answers, which means impatient for the conclusion, and I grant maybe that's missing the point; it does however feel like this tale could be a little shorter than it is.

(No offense intended for reviewing a comic about a pandemic in the midst of a pandemic. This site has always been about reviewing what I'm reading, and this is what I'm reading right now. These days, my interests have been skewing toward post-apocalyptic sci-fi, perhaps looking for context in my only previous experience with times such as these; with slowing trade releases even before the major lockdowns, I've also been trying to go back and complete some series I started but never finished, hence the recent Harley Quinn read-through. Hopefully some escapism only helps, not hurts.)

Review: Harley's Little Black Book hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, April 26, 2020

At 48 pages per issue (when it had ads), the chapters of Harley's Little Black Book feel rightly stuffed. Each one is a kind of mini graphic novel on its own, reminiscent even of the ye olde Prestige Format "graphic novels," and I found I could read about one a night and then I felt "done." That's backhanded praise, but the point is you won't breeze through this one and that's often a good thing.

Finding a plot in this book, to paraphrase, is a tricky endeavor. There's a thread that binds the first three chapters and one that binds the last three, but neither binding is particularly strong nor do they necessarily come of anything — it's best, I found, to think of each of these as happenstance Harley Quinn team-up stories rather than an actual miniseries. Said split between the first and last half also marks where the book changes from traditional team-ups to stories more esoteric; though there's gems throughout, for my tastes the book was stronger at the beginning than the end (put another way, the book weakens as one goes on, though it bounces back toward the finish).

Review: Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3 hardcover (DC Comics)

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

With Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3, the Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti run with this character goes out with a bang. When they finish, one faces the dilemma one always faces at the end of an instant-classic run such as this: would it be better to end the series, expecting that nothing that comes after could be as good as this, or to keep it going so that we still have Harley Quinn, even if what comes after, if lesser, tarnishes the overall reputation of the run?

Fortunately, things are not so bad as all that. To be very sure, Harley loses a step when Conner and Palmiotti leave and Frank Tieri takes over, but a couple factors work in favor of Tieri's stint: he continues what has already been a storyline of his own so far; despite a tonal shift, there are some interesting ideas within Tieri's story; and as it turns out, though it seemed momentarily that Tieri would be Harley's new ongoing writer, he actually isn't. If anything, maybe in the original offing Tieri's story should have been set before the end of Conner and Palmiotti's run, not after, so that Conner and Palmiotti could still have the last word and closing image, but it is what it is. Conner and Palmiotti get seven issues here, Tieri gets eight, and ultimately the good in this book outweighs what's rougher.

Review: Batman: Last Knight on Earth hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, April 19, 2020

It feels like a long time since we've seen Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo together again. Since their famous Batman collaboration, sure Snyder's gone back to his Dark Knight roots with The Batman Who Laughs, for instance, but not with Capullo. The two teamed for Dark Nights: Metal, but for all the craziness, Metal never captured the magic of Snyder's Batman for me, nor did Capullo's art on the (albeit enjoyable) crossover seem quite up to snuff.

Snyder and Capullo's DC Black Label series Batman: Last Knight on Earth is a cool burst of air, a lush, spacious, clever reminder of Snyder and Capullo's best work. It is more in the vein of their Batman: Zero Year than Metal, perhaps more unusually bright for a Batman story than what one usually expects, but with a summer blockbuster ending akin to the team's Court of Owls. Surely Last Knight is an instant classic, surely there's an Absolute edition in its future, and surely this is a pure example of what DC Black Label can and should do. Last Knight begs for a sequel; hopefully this isn't the last Last Knight after all.

Review: Event Leviathan hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

In concept, Brian Michael Bendis' Event Leviathan seems flawless, collecting the DC Universe's greatest detectives (continuity be damned), taking them seriously, and setting them against a grand conspiracy and twisty whodunit (or "who is it," at least). Even the barest high concept — a Lois Lane/Batman team-up — bespeaks a "what took them so long" success.

In execution, however, Event Leviathan struggles more than expected. The characters are great — the ones included, the way they're written, their interactions. This collection is satisfactorily complete, too, including the Superman: Leviathan Rises special and the Year of the Villain Special short story. But plot-wise, Event Leviathan is a closed circle mystery uncomfortably shoved into the format of a six-issue comics miniseries, and the result is that it never succeeds at being either. Comics is a grand stream of "to be continueds," but Event Leviathan fails to feel complete on its own, nor does it conclusively earn its central revelation.

Review: Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 2 hardcover (DC Comics)

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The overarching plot of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's Rebirth Harley Quinn series comes much more into focus with Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 2 (collecting the Harley Quinn Vol. 3: Red Meat and Harley Quinn Vol. 4: Surprise, Surprise trade paperbacks). The first volume saw Harley doing one crime-stopping favor for Chief of Police Spoonsdale; that continues here to a second job, and then the significant amount of fallout that comes with it.

In the 13 issues (and a special) collected here, I count no less than a half-dozen major plotlines going on, often simultaneously. Though a "comedy book" at its most basic, Conner and Palmiotti don't cut corners in their plotting, with what seems like the lost art of A, B, and C plots exchanging places throughout. Whereas the first 13 issues were more random and disconnected, these 13 issues (are still random but) by and large lead in to one another, through to the final cliffhanger, which sets up the climactic showdown between Harley, Spoonsdale, and the corrupt New York City Mayor DePerto in the next volume.

Review: Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 1 hardcover (DC Comics)

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Harley Quinn enters the DC Rebirth with Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 1, collecting the Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Die Laughing and Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Joker Loves Harley paperbacks. The stories are not a significant departure from the New 52 era, featuring essentially the same cast of characters and the same vein of humor, though writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have gotten sharper as this series has gone on. In general, despite the book's trademark meandering, if anything this book seems a bit more focused in Rebirth in terms of the supporting cast and reoccurring characters. This is, to an extent, Conner and Palmiotti's second chance at a first start with this series, and one definitely sees here a stronger launch than ye olde Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City.

I spot two throughways that might be considered a semblance of a plot in the first 13 issues collected here — one, the build up and momentary resolution of Harley and Poison Ivy's (clearly) romantic relationship, and two, that Harley adopts a life coach in the Nate-Man's hot dog guy. These tent poles draw us through the story and I'm interested to see how they continue to unfold through the rest of the writers' run.

Review: Titans Vol. 6: Into the Bleed trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Titans Vol. 6: Into the Bleed is fine for what it is, the self-referential and inconsequential finale of a series that, though positioned to be a cornerstone of DC Comic's Rebirth, never found its footing. To writer Dan Abnett's credit, the story is still enjoyable, with some unexpected twists. Perhaps the larger question this title, and its cancellation, raises is what is a Titans team when it doesn't contain the Titans, and what place does Titans have in a DC Universe that's got the Teen Titans, three Justice League teams, and the Outsiders already.

[Review contains spoilers]

Into the Bleed collects two main stories — a two-parter that sees the Titans marooned on a far-off planet, and a six-parter in which they chase villain Mother Blood into and out of a dimension based on a Tolkien-esque series of books, "Unearth," which the Titans previously encountered in Titans Vol. 5: The Spark. Which is to say — though both of these stories are rather better than they might have been — the plot is very inward-looking.

Review: Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

In the past, Frank Tieri's stories have been hit-or-miss for me, so I'm pleased to find that his Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys, in collaboration with main Harley writer Jimmy Palmiotti, is so good — especially since Tieri will eventually take over for a time from Amanda Conner and Palmiotti. I dare say, Gang of Harleys is really a lot better than it has any right to be, a Harley Quinn spin-off that no one necessarily asked for, full of action and humor and clever team dynamics. I've no idea if the Gang of Harleys return in Harley Quinn's Rebirth iteration, but I'd be happy to read about them again.

In a number of ways, too, Gang of Harleys serves as a coda to the New 52 Harley Quinn series which, let's not forget, is what launched Harley into the mainstream. The Gang of Harleys is here, but also a bunch of the Brooklyn crew, as well as a couple of surprises. All of that makes this feel like a true sequel to Harley Quinn Vol. 4: A Call to Arms, as well as a celebration of the series so far; again, I don't know to what extent things change or stay the same in Rebirth, but it's nice to get the gang together one last time before the shift.