Review: Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 2: A League of Their Own trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

I went back and read the first volume of Bryan Hill’s Batman and the Outsiders in preparation for reading Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 2: A League of Their Own, and I found I liked it better than before; the second volume, too, is an improvement. Though the book still feels clumsy around the very edges (and, we now know, the next trade will be the last), Hill does better here with the relationships between the characters — more realistic — and also the interrelationships, how certain new team members interact with established characters in differing ways. In the end — and of course, this would have to come as the book is now ending — I felt I could finally see how this team could be worthy of at least some of the “Outsiders” monikers worn by teams in the past.

Review: Year of the Villain: The Infected trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Year of the Villain: The Infected

No line-wide mainstream comics event comes without some cruft, and in that regard “Year of the Villain” (being, even, a sub-event “countdown” to another event) has had better or more innocuous tie-ins than most. That said, it was already apparent from the lead-in Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Who Are the Secret Six? that the “Infected” tangent of “Villain” might be the weak link, and the Year of the Villain: The Infected collection seals that.

Though not objectionable, there is nothing here that’s consequential and nothing that feels like it couldn’t be easily skipped. Should the plight of the heroes infected by the Batman Who Laughs play out more strongly in Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen or the like, maybe that assessment will change, but I’m not optimistic on that point. Further, DC Comics made the odd decision to choose particularly out-of-the-way characters for these stories, such that the stakes start low and barely end up getting any higher.

Review: Hawkman Vol. 3: Darkness Within trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

We've had occasion to speak here lately about a number of titles ending under the recent "DC Implosion." Hawkman, in its current post-Dark Nights: Metal incarnation, is not one I feel particularly emotional about, though I am rankled for what it means for the Hawkman character.

Hawkman has a particularly tortured post-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, solved for a while in Geoff Johns' JSA era and then, all the sadder, dashed again with the New 52. I had high hopes that Robert Venditti, a writer whose work I liked very much on Green Lantern, might be able to sort Hawkman out again (especially after his inscrutable role in Metal), and for a while it seemed Venditti was succeeding. But in terms of who this Hawkman is and where he and his cast fit in to the larger DC Universe, Hawkman Vol. 3: Darkness Within doesn't clarify things much.

Review: Aquaman Vol. 3: Manta vs. Machine trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Aquaman Vol 3 Manta vs Machine

That there is really not much to Kelly Sue DeConnick's Aquaman Vol. 3: Manta vs. Machine, but that I still enjoyed it quite a bit anyway, no doubt speaks to DeConnick's prowess as a writer. After all the politically and morally nuanced Aquaman stories we've seen over the years, this is mostly just fisticuffs, which isn't always my thing, but the best of Aquaman is here — Arthur, Mera, Aqualad Jackson Hyde, and the villainous Black Manta — and DeConnick gives them enough personality to make almost half a book's worth of fight scenes feel worthwhile.

In the strange twisty-turns way of comics, we've come to know just before this volume's release that it's the penultimate collection of DeConnick's Aquaman, with her run ending in the early issue #60s. But I don't nearly have the consternation about this sudden "beginning of the end" that I had with Young Justice, for instance. This Aquaman run has been adequate reading, but here almost at the end I can't speak to a strong point, purpose, or direction for this story — aside from being wonderfully, often shockingly domestic — and it's obvious more could be being done. Clearly DC Comics is at a crossroads, clearly most titles are taking a deep breath in before they breathe out, and hopefully when the dust clears there'll be a team ready to put Aquaman back in the forefront of the DCU again.

Review: Young Justice Vol. 2: Lost in the Multiverse hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

This would be a different Young Justice review if we didn’t know the series is due to end with issue #20, most likely the next trade. That’s a cruel, cruel turn of events; some 16 years after Peter David’s beloved series ended, Brian Michael Bendis revived the closest thing we’ve seen to the original since, only for it to be cancelled after 20 issues. Something is better than nothing, but for fans who’ve been waiting for this, to have the Wonder Comics iteration not turn out to be a true Young Justice “return” is sad indeed.

The difficulty is, Bendis has been muddling around a lot in this series, and Young Justice Vol. 2: Lost in the Multiverse is no exception. Were Young Justice’s fate more open-ended, that it’s 12 issues now with no clear direction for the team, letting alone no clear hows or whys of the team’s mere existence, wouldn’t be such a problem — by and large the point is just to see these characters having fun with one another, and Bendis offers that in spades. But knowing time is short — and not knowing whether the issue #20 conclusion was planned or came as a surprise to Bendis — makes me much less tolerant of seeming tangents when there’s so many questions still to be answered.

DC Trade Solicitations for December 2020 - Batman: Joker War, Young Justice finale, JSA: Demise of Justice, Legion: Before the Darkness, Wonder Woman by Loebs Book Two, Crisis on Multiple Earths

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Forty-three collections for the DC Comics December 2020 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations is a lot better than the short months we've been having lately, and commensurate with this time last year (40 collections, then). So maybe things are normalizing in terms of DC's collections schema, even as overall, of course, things at DC are pretty far from normal.

There's plenty books I'm excited about on this month's list, but I'll digress a moment and say next month's "regular series" releases should be really interesting. There's quite a number of collections for this month that stop right before this new "Endless Winter" event, which seems quite obviously like a Convergence-style stop-gap story — don't get me wrong, a multi-part story crossing over into regular series like War of the Gods or something, I love it, but with all parts written by Andy Lanning (whom we haven't seen in forever!) and Ron Marz, this says index story out the wazoo. And with Death Metal ending the same month — yeah, the Justice League versus the terrible, earth-shattering threat of, uh, "the Frost King" will likely be a fun diversion, but I'm more interested in what all this is stalling for.

That said, a bunch of new, a bunch of old, some endings, and so. many. books. coming out in the January/February period. Like, the end of Young Justice, the end of Hawkman; the end of Kelly Sue DeConnick's run on Aquaman and the end of G. Willow Wilson's run on Wonder Woman. Batman aplenty, with the big release being James Tynion's Batman: The Joker War, but then also the next volume of Peter Tomasi's Detective Comics, and volumes of both of these great post-Crisis collections series Batman: The Caped Crusader and Batman: The Dark Knight Detective.

Also, some big reprints, starting with a new series of Crisis on Multiple Earths collections — let's see how far we can get this time. Also Legion of Super-Heroes: Before the Darkness and the 1990s Justice Society of America miniseries, more 1980s Justice League International (again), more William Messner-Loebs era Wonder Woman, and another of the deluxe Sandman volumes that can't come out fast enough for me. Some months are thin, some months are full, but rarely do we see a month with this much something for everyone.

So let's dig in and look at these in more detail:

Aquaman Vol. 4: Echoes of a Life Lived Well TP

Being the end of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Aquaman run, issues #59-65 plus some guest spots, in paperback. The Endless Winter tie-in follows right after.

Batgirl Returns Omnibus HC

Though it's almost hard to remember at this point, Gail Simone's New 52 Batgirl run really is significant, putting Barbara Gordon back in the cowl for the first time in forever, whereas nowadays Barbara as Batgirl (again) feels pretty natural. Equally longtime Birds of Prey writer Simone also accomplished the transition from Oracle back to Batgirl. All of this makes for a run worth collecting in omnibus; it also bears mentioning that Simone channels the horror genre pretty heavily in this one — arguably too tonally dark for a Batgirl book, but effective nonetheless. Collects Batgirl #0-34, Batgirl Annual #1 and 2, Batgirl: Futures End #1, and more.

Batman Adventures: Robin, the Boy Wonder TP

Pitting Robin against Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, among others, this is Batman: Gotham Adventures #7, #19, #29, #42, #54, and Batman Adventures #9.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: Cold Vengeance TP

Issues #1012-1019, by Peter Tomasi and featuring Mr. Freeze in a tie-in to "Year of the Villain." This was previously listed as hardcover, but now seems to be paperback. “Joker War” is issues #1022-1026

Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 5 TP

Collects Batman #466-473 and Detective Comics #639-640, some rather classic early Batman and Robin Tim Drake stories (including vs. perennial foe Lynx, and maybe King Snake!). The latest Dark Knight Detective companion book (see below) collects through issue #611 of Detective, so it has some catching up to do. Both books arrive in January.

Batman: The Chalice TP

Collects two stories by Chuck Dixon with art by John Van Fleet — Batman: The Chalice and Batman: The Ankh #1-2. Surprised this isn't hardcover deluxe, but reflects an apparent new interest at DC in collecting Chuck Dixon's material

Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 4 TP

Issues #601-611 and the Detective Comics Annual #2, with stories by Alan Grant, Mark Waid, and Brian Augustyn, and featuring Clayface, Etrigan the Demon, and the debut of Anarky. Nice to see both a Caped Crusader and Dark Knight Detective volume out in January. "Knightfall" hits Detective at issue #659, for those who think that'll be where these trades end.

Batman: The Joker War HC

In hardcover, James Tynion’s issues #95-100, arriving in February.

Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits TP

Issues #96-103 of Gail Simone's Birds of Prey run, seemingly exactly the same as the 2007 release of this trade.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Book One: Crossing Over TP

What appears to be a new start to the old often-incomplete, often-hard-to-find Crisis on Multiple Earths series of collections; I think this’ll make some people happy if indeed it gets down to the later volumes, which never ultimately collected all of the JLA/JSA “pre-Crisis” team-ups. This new volume actually collects the contents of the first two original books, so maybe that will shorten release time, too. Collects Justice League of America #21-22, #29-30, #37-38, #46-47, #55-56, #64-65, #73-74, #76, and #82-83.

DC Comics: The Art of Lee Bermejo HC

Likely to include work on Batman, Luthor, Before Watchmen: Rorshach, and The Joker.

DC’s Greatest Detective Stories Ever Told TP

Interesting collection of not-just-Batman detective stories, including Lois Lane, the Question, Slam Bradley, the Sandman, and Detective Chimp — one maybe senses a bit of Event Leviathan's influence here. Collects Adventure Comics #51, Batman #441, Detective Comics #2, #329, and #572, Lois Lane #1-2, Secret Origins #40, and The Question #8.

Earth One Box Set

Collects Batman: Earth One Vol. 1, Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 1, and Superman: Earth One Vol. 1. Cue “Earth One” in Monty Python and the Holy Grail — "I'm not dead yet!"

Green Lantern by Geoff Johns Book Four TP

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1 and Green Lantern #26-38, including the Green Lantern: Secret Origin story. Blackest Night, for reference, begins with Green Lantern #43.

Green Lantern: Circle of Fire TP

Being now both Judd Winick’s first arc on Green Lantern, issues #129-136 starring Kyle Rayner, previously collected as New Journey, Old Path, and also the contemporaneous (but not necessarily related) “Circle of Fire” miniseries lead by Brian K. Vaughan, comprised of Green Lantern/Firestorm #1, Green Lantern/Adam Strange #1, Green Lantern/Atom #1, Green Lantern/Green Lantern #1, Green Lantern/Power Girl #1, and Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1-2. There was to be a set of Kyle Rayner collections that I don’t think progressed; remains to be seen if this is a one-off or if DC is jumping ahead to the Winick run.

Hawkman Vol. 4: Hawks Eternal TP

Issues #20-29 by Robert Venditti and Fernando Pasarin, an awfully big trade that marks the end of the series. Coming in February.

Heroes in Crisis: The Price and Other Stories TP

Paperback release, following the hardcover, and collecting Batman #64-65, The Flash #64-65 and Annual #2, and Green Arrow #45 and #48-50.

Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe Book Two TP

Just Imagine Stan Lee with John Byrne Creating Robin #1, Just Imagine Stan Lee with Gary Frank Creating Shazam! #1, Just Imagine Stan Lee with Scott McDaniel Creating Aquaman #1, Just Imagine Stan Lee with Chris Bachalo Creating Catwoman #1, Just Imagine Stan Lee with Walter Simonson Creating the Sandman #1, and Just Imagine Stan Lee with John Cassaday Creating Crisis #1, in paperback.

Justice League Dark Vol. 4: A Costly Trick of Magic TP

Collects issues #20-28 (previously #21-25 and the Annual #2), the first full volume by Ram V after James Tynion's departure. Issue #29 is the “Endless Winter” tie-in.

Justice League International Book Two: Around the World TP

Continuing, thank god, the new paperback collections of the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis Justice League era, being Justice League International #18-25, Justice League America #26-30, Justice League Europe #1-6, and Justice League International Annual #1. The contents are roundabouts volume 4 of the previous set of collections. There's some Invasion! tie-ins in there.

Justice League Unlimited: Hocus Pocus TP

Continuing the new recent collections of the animated Justice League Unlimited comic, this time with a magic theme. It’s Justice League Unlimited #11, Justice League Unlimited #14, Justice League Unlimited #25, Justice League Unlimited #33, Justice League Unlimited #37, and Justice League Unlimited #40, with appearances apparently by Stargirl, Deadman, Blue Devil, Doctor Fate, Zatanna, Shadow Thief, and the Spectre.

Justice Society of America: The Demise of Justice HC

A step in the right direction toward finally collecting the short-lived 1990s Justice Society series by Len Strazewski and Mike Parobeck, this is a 1990s Justice Society miniseries by Strazewski, Rick Burchett, and Parobeck that set the stage for the later series. Also All-Star Comics #57, the last canonical Golden Age appearance of the JSA, and a story from Adventure Comics #466, the first telling of the JSA refusing to unmask before Congress.

Legends of the DC Universe: Doug Mahnke HC

Probably some cool stuff in here, and nice to see a "newer" talent like Mahnke get one of these books; I'm glad to see work from his Superman: The Man of Steel. Collects stories or art from Action Comics #775 and #1000; Batman #645; Batman: The Man Who Laughs #1; Batman and Robin Annual #2; Black Adam: The Dark Age #1; Detective Comics #1000; Final Crisis: Requiem #1; Green Lantern (2011) #0 and #50; Green Lantern (2016) #50; Hitman/Lobo: That Stupid Bastich #1; JLA #61 and #65; Justice League #25; Justice League of America #25; Justice League: Elite #1; The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1; Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #1; Superman #8-9; and Superman: The Man of Steel #87.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Before the Darkness Vol. 1 TP

In hardcover, 1980s Legion of Super-Heroes stories from just before “Great Darkness Saga,” being issues #260-271 and Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes #1-3. This is an era of Legion I find pretty accessible and iconic, so I’m excited about this one, though I’m told the story quality may vary.

Manhunter by Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson Deluxe Edition HC

The award-winning 1970s Detective Comics back-up tales by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson, well worthy of a deluxe edition, and as relevant as ever to the DCU. Issues #437-443 and the silent epilogue from an earlier reprint.

New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 5 HC

The New Teen Titans #32-49, The New Teen Titans Annual #3 (first appearance of Danny Chase) and #4, Tales of the Teen Titans #91 (as this was a reprint of New Teen Titans #31, this is probably just the cover or a short recap section), Secret Origins #13, Secret Origins Annual #3, and Infinity, Inc. #45. The title became New Titans with issue #50 — is this the end of the omnibuses or will they continue?!

New Teen Titans Vol. 12 TP

The New Teen Titans #24-31, Tales of the Teen Titans #84-88 (reprints of some of the former, so probably just covers), and The New Teen Titans Annual #2. So, this one ends where they newest omnibus picks up.

Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter: The Coming of the Dragon! HC

One must obviously be sorry Dennis O’Neil didn’t live to see this come out. Collects O’Neil’s Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #1-18, The Brave and the Bold #132, and DC Comics Presents #39.

Sandman: The Deluxe Edition Book Two HC

I'm increasingly interested in these new deluxe-size Sandman collections with tertiary material placed in context. This is issues #17-31, so the Dream Country (vol. 3) and Seasons of Mists (vol. 4) collections, plus issues later collected in Fables and Reflections (vol. 6). Additionally, there's “Fear of Falling” from Vertigo Preview #1 and Sandman Special #1 (both collected in Fables and Reflections), and stories from Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #1-3: “Flowers of Romance,” “A Winter’s Tale,” and “How They Met Themselves," which I think only so far appeared in the Absolute Sandman and Absolute Death volumes.

Superman & Batman: Generations Omnibus HC

Collects the two four-issue miniseries and the third 12-issue miniseries by John Byrne. I know there’s a lot of excitement about this one.

Superman by Grant Morrison Omnibus HC

Being the start of the New 52 Action Comics, issues #0-18 and the Annual #1 by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, and Andy Kubert.

Superman in the Fifties HC

Superman #65, #79, #80, #96, #97, and #127, Action Comics #151, #242, #252, #254, and #255, World’s Finest Comics #68 and #75, Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #8, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #13, Adventure Comics #210, and Showcase #9.

Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore HC

Previously collected at least once, this is the 1970s “Sandman Saga” by Dennis O’Neil and Curt Swan, with a cover by Neal Adams. This “new direction” saw Superman de-powered and his mythos modernized, though the changes were not particularly long lasting (at the time). Collects Superman #233-238 and #240-242, apparently newly restored and recolored.

Superman: The Last Son Deluxe Edition HC

Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Adam Kubert, and Gary Frank’s stories from Johns’ run on Action Comics, previously the Superman: Last Son and Superman: Brainiac collections. This is Action Comics #844-846, #851, #866-870, and the Action Comics Annual #11. We’re due, I think, for a “New Krypton Omnibus” to go along with this.

Superman: The Man of Steel Vol. 2 HC

Continuing the omnibus-esque collecting of John Byrne's Superman run, this is Action Comics #588-593, Adventures of Superman #429-435, Legion of Super-Heroes #37-38, Superman #5-11 , and Who’s Who Update 1987 #2, #4, and #5. With appearances by the Green Lanterns, the Metal Men, and the Joker; the first post-Crisis appearance of Mr. Mxyzptlk; and an infamous storyline with Big Barda, Mister Miracle, and the villain Sleez.

Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 3 TP

Ahead of Alan Moore's run, this is The Saga of the Swamp Thing #6-19 and Saga of the Swamp Thing Annual #1 by Martin Pasko and Tom Yeates.

Titans: Burning Rage TP

Stories by Dan Jurgens and Scot Eaton from the Walmart exclusive Titans Giants.

Wonder Woman Book Two: Ares Rising TP

Thrilled to see the new collections of William Messner-Loebs’ Wonder Woman run continuing. This is issues #77-89, with some Lee Moder art in there; issues #88-89 are actually by Christopher Priest. The 2016 Wonder Woman by Mike Deodato book collects issues #90-100, after which John Byrne replaces Messner-Loebs on the title — so it remains to be seen if this is the last collection in this series or if DC will see fit to reprint the “Contest” storyline again.

Wonder Woman by George Pérez Vol. 5 TP

Collects Wonder Woman #46-57 (previously also Who’s Who #3-4, #7-8, #13, and #16, though they’re not mentioned in this solicitation). This ends just before the War of the Gods crossover; if these paperbacks map to the Perez omnibuses, the next and final one would be War of the Gods #1-4, and Wonder Woman #58-62, #168-169, and #600.

Wonder Woman in the Fifties TP

Collects stories from Wonder Woman #45, #50, #60, #66, #72, #76, #80, #90, #94-95, #98-101, #103, #105, #107, and #108; All Star Comics #56-57; and Sensation Comics #97-100.

Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Loveless TP

Collection of issues #74-81 by G. Willow Wilson, tying in to "Year of the Villain." I believe this is Wilson’s last volume before Steve Orlando takes over (and then Mariko Tamaki); I also think this was previously solicited in hardcover, now converted to paperback.

Young Justice Vol. 2: Lost in the Multiverse TP

Paperback of issues #7-12 by Brian Michael Bendis, following the hardcover.

Young Justice Vol. 3: Warriors and Warlords TP

Hardcover collecting issues #13-20 by Brian Michael Bendis, now being the last volume of the series. Bendis’ Young Justice is done, his Superman is about to be done, Checkmate has gone missing ... what's happening with the Bendis era of DC Comics?

Review: Wonder Twins Vol. 2: The Fall and Rise of the Wonder Twins trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Wonder Twins Vol 2 The Fall and Rise of the Wonder Twins

With the shock of the new wearing off, Wonder Twins Vol. 2: The Fall and Rise of the Wonder Twins does not quite have the same punch as the first volume, though I’d still have happily kept reading. This second six-issue arc does lead up to a cumulative conclusion, but to me it felt more episodic than the earlier book. That’s perhaps because a lot of this is “aftermath” (or “AfterMath,” as one issue title puns), cleaning up from the first volume instead of building something new. In considering this review, I also found myself wishing the Wonder Twins had faced a more serious opponent in this final book; I never quite felt the Twins were endangered, and even with keeping the elements of humor, I think it would have been interesting to see some semi-serious pathos here, such to connect with the characters more emotionally (something the Harley Quinn title has pulled off nicely).

Still, writer Mark Russell does well in his satirical musings of “strangers in a strange land” aliens Jayna and Zan, who continually find the established rules of right and wrong, and who’s an enemy and who’s a friend, are flimsier than they expected. The story is bookended by some protests against the Justice League, too, with which Russell continues to poke some of the problematic aspects of humanity with a stick.

Review: Mind MGMT Omnibus Part 3 trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Mind MGMT Omnibus Part 3

Like the bizarre inverted pyramid that backdrops the book’s conclusion, Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT has been a story that bucks conventional narrative structure. Whereas ordinarily an audience might be brought to care about characters at the beginning of a tale through their wants, desires, and emotions, the first couple volumes of Mind MGMT were frosty as they come, much more about the pervasive, slowly revealed conspiracy than who the disheveled Meru was and why we should care about her.

Almost 36 issues later, in the waning chapters of the Mind MGMT Omnibus Part 3 (collecting the original “Eraser” and “Immortals” volumes 5 and 6), when Kindt and Meru take a couple of pages for Meru to check in with and hug her estranged parents, the otherwise mundane sequence is startling for how heartwarming it is. The same with Meru forgiving mentor Henry Lyme, the same with her finally crying over the death of boyfriend Billy Falls. In a series where, at its darkest, even trying to change the world for the better is an act of violence, the unexpected grace here and in the book’s conclusion is astounding, as much evidence of Kindt’s mastery as the rest. Love finally comes to Mind MGMT, if only in the end.

Review: Wonder Twins Vol. 1: Activate! trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Wonder Twins Vol 1 Activate

If a writer like Mark Russell meanders, that’s not particularly a fault, as the meandering is partially why we’ve bought our ticket. Some of Russell’s most biting commentary in Wonder Twins Vol. 1: Activate! does not involve the Wonder Twins at all, which is a problem; at the same time, Russell is such a master of jabbing with his pen so precisely that the sheer brilliance of it is enough to forgive all other things. In terms of the Wonder Comics imprint, the first volume of Wonder Twins does not arrive with quite the same gusto as Sam Humphries' Dial H for HERO did, but in terms of viable concept and potential for impact on the DC Universe, Jayna and Zan steal every scene they’re in and I hope they continue to do so.